On social media and cricket

Cricket scores, match results, pictures, video, commentary, expert analysis etc. etc. are at the tip of my hand. I watch live matches on TV or the internet and most of the time follow the fortunes of the Sri Lankan team on my cricinfo mobile app in the midst of my Centennial lectures. Even on days when the Sri Lanka team does not play, I visit http://www.cricinfo.com at least once a day to update myself on developments in the world of cricket.

I like to read everything about cricket. The atmosphere surrounding a game, the career stats of the players, about the support staff, the umpires, commentators, administrators and about those who wield the big bucks, a.k.a sponsors, ostensibly for the good of the game. The added dimension of social media provides a hitherto uncharted territory for the game. That of cricketers, commentators, fans and others involved in the game interacting on a global scale and commenting on various aspects of the game.

However, I can’t help getting nostalgic and thankful at the same time when realizing how easy it has become to access information. It always reminds of the days when my father introduced me to the world of cricket on radio courtesy of BBC Sports on Short Wave Two.London and Colombo were far off places way back in the 1980s. The game scores were followed with both of us taking turns to put our ear to the radio and constantly updating the other. Listening was an intense experience. Clear commentary was frequently interrupted with background noise. Bliss were the days when the commentary was clear.

Newspapers were the other source of our entertainment. But one had to wait for the following day to get to know what was happening. Sometimes when the time difference affected the press deadlines, the wait had to be two days. Today, in the world of instant news, newspapers are glanced or scanned more often than not. Back then every word was read and re-read with relish at sunrise. Sports magazines added the extra spice a week or fortnight later with added analysis and pictures on the plays of the week.

From the early nineties, live telecast of all matches involving Sri Lanka became the norm. The irritating exception was when games were played either in the West Indies or New Zealand and sponsors could not be found due to the time difference affecting viewership. Even that hurdle has been overcome now. No barriers exist and engagement today is on a global scale. This year’s Indian Premier League netted a mind-boggling one billion tweets in a two and a half month tournament under the hashtag #ipl. See http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-400-million-tweets_b23744#more-23744  for latest trends in overall numbers of tweets. The tournament also witnessed the potential of social media as a marketing phenomenon with advertisements direct and indirect being the order of the day. The highlight to me was model Poonam Pandey promising to bare it all if Kolkata won their maiden title and actually fulfilling the promise. See http://www.apnicommunity.com/indian-premiere-league-ipl-t20/655045-poonam-pandey-tweets-nude-picture-after-kolkatas-win-ipl-2012-a.html. Needless to say, Poonam Pandey stole the limelight from her favourite team.

Interaction and engagement can have its positives and negatives. To many, this will be a process of trial and error until proper rules are laid out and the turf is clear on what is possible and what is not. The recent twitter controversy involving England all-rounder Kevin Pietersen is a case in point. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/18185244 While this is not the first time cricketers have taken umbrage at what commentators say, I cannot recall any other instance of a cricketer announcing his retirement on a social media platform before informing his cricket board. Expert commentators have also begun to voice their disagreements on social media. The ongoing twitter spat between Tony Greig and Harsha Bhogle on the Duckworth-Lewis system and the use of DRS (Decision Review System) has certainly spiced things for those of us who follow news on social media.

Where to from here? Whether one likes it or not, social media is here to stay and cricketers at one time or another will begin using one or more of a multitude of platforms available. It is up to the administrators of the game now to lay down some basic rules without waiting for the horse to bolt and then penalizing for breach of discipline.

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