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Following sportsmen on Twitter

Philip Hughes is a 20-year-old finding his feet in international cricket. The Australian opener came into this year’s Ashes hoping to hit the headlines. Well, we are two-and-a-half Tests down, and Hughes has been in the news, just not for his cricket, writes Arjun Sen.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2009 01:28 IST
Arjun Sen

Philip Hughes is a 20-year-old finding his feet in international cricket. The Australian opener came into this year’s Ashes hoping to hit the headlines. Well, we are two-and-a-half Tests down, and Hughes has been in the news, just not for his cricket.

Dropped, Hughes did what most his age and in this generation, would - he tweeted about it. “Disappointed not to be on the field with the lads today, will be supporting the guys, it's a BIG test match 4 us. Thanks 4 all the support!' wrote Hughes on Twitter moments after the team meeting, but more crucially, before the third Test team was made public. Cricket Australia, needless to say perhaps, was not very pleased.

Welcome to the world of Twitter — the microblogging site that has sportspersons around the world profusely typing their keyboards and Blackberries, updating their legion of fans about the latest development in their lives, no matter how inconsequential, in 140 characters or less.

From stars like Lance Armstrong, Shaquille O'Neal and Serena Williams, to almost famous ones like footballer Darren Bent and Hughes, Twitter seems the best way to both increase your fan base as well as build one.

Spurs’ Bent seemed off to Sunderland this week before chairman Daniel Levy entertained bids from other clubs. That did not go down too well with Bent, who decided to let Levy know just what he thought about him.

“Seriously getting p***** off now," a tweet on 'db10thetruth', Bent's page, read. "Why can't anything be simple? It's so frustrating hanging round doing jack s***. Do I wanna go Hull City? NO. Do I wanna go stoke? NO Do I wanna go sunderland? YES so stop f****** around, Levy.”

His English teacher may hardly have been impressed, but the footballer got his point across. And it is this personal element that has endeared Twitter to sport stars and fans alike. How, otherwise, would we ever know that 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink drank Guinness out of his trophy moments after he won? Or that Serena Williams found the idea of no food in the Wimbledon locker room 'absurd'?

Twitter works on many levels. While it allows famous faces to talk to fans while maintaining their privacy, its two-way talk feature makes people feel like they are actually engaging their idol in conversation.

So, when David Beckham did not respond to O'Neal's challenge for a game of football, the hoopster's followers let Beckham know just what they thought of him. "He's scared, Shaq, and that the truth", was one of the many responses the big Cleveland Cavalier centre got.

It's not yet a rage with Indian sport stars, with only GP2 driver Karun Chandok actively tweeting, but seeing how India’s cricketers obsessively use Facebook, it's just a matter of time before we have MS Dhoni telling us what his new dog ate for breakfast.

And Twitter isn't just for us mortals. 'God' has an account with 26,198 followers and so does 'Satan'. Hardly hard to see why!