England v Australia, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston July 30, 2009

Twittering cricketers

Lance Armstrong was arguably the first high-profile athlete to use the social networking site Twitter as a means of communicating his thoughts to a wider audience, but then cycling is a rather more individual pursuit than cricket, as Armstrong's feud with his team-mate and Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador, would suggest.

Phillip Hughes, on the other hand, is a 20-year-old rookie Australian cricketer barely six months into his international career, and today he became the first player to "tweet" his own axing from the team, several hours before the team selectors went public with the news that Shane Watson had been drafted into his opener's position.

It wasn't exactly a state secret, and Graham Manou's dramatic call-up minutes before the delayed start ended up being the bigger talking point of the day, but nevertheless, Hughes' embarrassment was such that Cricket Australia were moved to intervene, and his manager, Neil D'Costa, ended up carrying the can for the untimely outburst.

"I look after the Twitter for Phillip and we were certainly under the impression [the timing was okay] because of the time change," D'Costa told Sky Sports News. "I'm in India and I was dealing with all the stuff through Australia. Unfortunately I am probably the fool in this situation."

D'Costa evidently runs a one-on-one service that would make Jerry Maguire proud, because the wording of Hughes' statement was unpolished, to say the least. "Disappointed not to be on the field with the lads today," read the tweet. "Will be supporting the guys, it's a BIG test match 4 us. Thanks 4 all the support!"

In the event, support came not only from Hughes' fans and admirers on the website, but also from an unrepentant twitterer in the England camp, Graeme Swann, who is currently locked in a battle with his team-mate, Jimmy Anderson, as they attempt to attract more followers than the other.

"I was a bit surprised to hear about it, but I'm not going to get into a big thing about Twitter because I'm on it and it's brilliant, tell all your readers," Swann said. "Obviously it's a bit of a left-field way to go about things, but we didn't know anything about it until well into today.

"We haven't sat down and had a meeting about [using it], and I'm not sure the management are quite au fait about what Twitter is, to be honest. It's very much a case of using your common sense. If you're going to put something on there that's going to get you into trouble, then it's probably best not to do [that]."

Hughes is certainly not the first sportsman to get into a scrape through social networking. The Tottenham footballer, Darren Bent, today criticised his chairman, Daniel Levy, in rather uncouched terms for dawdling over his desired transfer to Sunderland, while last year a young Crystal Palace footballer, Ashley-Paul Robinson, accidentally told 2.7 million Facebook users that he was in unsolicited talks with Fulham - "Ashley-Paul has been very naughty lol!"

Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, wasn't going to get quite so hung up about the whole issue, though, as the whole concept was rather alien to him. "I can't tell you how Twitter works, to be honest. It's one of those things that's going to happen," he said. "He told his family, they've discussed it, we've spoken to his management, his mate, his family, those things are kept in house until they are released formally. I now know of what Twitter is.

As for Swann, his Twitter use will remain strictly recreational. "My Twittering is more of a self-effacing thing," he said. "I rip the piss out of myself because people seem to like that." Having decided after their five-a-side warm-up on Monday that "Jimmy A is an absolute animal, Broad is like Drogba, Monty the new Ronaldinho [sic]," yesterday swannyg66 mused: "cricket whites or swimming trunks for tomorrow?"

From the way England bowled in the 30 overs available today, you wonder if the team had opted for the latter.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments