The England v India Twitter war

Also known as the latest issuing of bile from cricket's angry glands

Andrew Hughes

Comments: 3 | Text size: A | A

To those of you who watch a lot of sport, George Orwell's famous essay on "The Sporting Spirit" might seem a touch melodramatic, particularly lines such as:

"… international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred".

Yes, people get upset when their team lose, but rational adults realise that most teams will fail to win at least 50% of the time, so learn early on in life to take the rough of defeat along with the rough of heavy defeat.

So you tell yourself with confidence that George was wrong. Just as he was wrong that British life in the mid-1980s would be hellish and soul-destroying (the music of Depeche Mode notwithstanding) he got us sports fans all wrong too. Test match cricket is not the cause of orgies of any description (unless there's such a thing as an orgy of snoozing).

But then you open up your favourite social media site on Wednesday morning and there it is: an orgy of hatred, or more accurately, the script to an orgy of hatred, interspersed with the occasional diagram, imaginatively lewd emoticon or helpfully obscene diagram.

This sudden proliferation of bile from cricket's angry glands can mean only one thing: India and England are playing another Test series. I don't know what it is about these two cricket nations, but they seem incapable of completing a five-day engagement without resorting to squabbling, swearing or petulance on an intergalactic scale. They set out calmly enough, but at a certain point, it all goes wrong.

In 2007 they fell out over jelly beans. In 2011 it was Vaseline. They are like constantly scuffling siblings on a long car journey, able to start an argument on any subject at any time. It doesn't help, of course, that the modern cricket-playing establishment seems to actively encourage systematic verbal abuse. Just hours after sledging bore James Anderson had been charged with a Level 3 offence, Alastair Cook was saying this:

"I like it when Jimmy is in the battle because it means he is up for it and desperate to do well for England."

And his opposite number was saying this:

"We want players to be aggressive, say a few things."

As any parent will tell you, when you have two argumentative children in close proximity for a prolonged period, the last thing you should do is encourage them to abuse one another verbally:

"Now Ravindra, I think it's great that you called Jimmy a smelly big nose, and Jimmy, I like that you said Ravindra has bottom-breath, that tells me that you're both really committed and passionate about this family holiday, just as long as you remember there's a line that you do not cross and please stop doing that with Ravindra's head, Jimmy."

Thanks to the efforts of supposedly independent-minded journalists, who with wearying predictability line up uniformly behind their countrymen, and the helpful interventions of former cricketers-turned-internet trolls (to mention no Michaels) within hours, every one of these grievances takes on the flavour of an international incident and before the day is out, England is at Twitter war with India. Again.

The ICC won't be able to resolve this latest incident for a few days, but that hardly matters. The angry genie is out of the bottle. Whatever the outcome, there will be appeals, denials, conspiracy theories, and an endless rolling tide of internet hatred, punctuated by occasional incidents, near-incidents or alleged incidents on the field of play, which will in turn provide more fuel for the steam-train of thundering idiocy.

Such is the spectacle that modern cricket offers: players abusing each other as a matter of course; captains, journalists, and ex-players eagerly choosing sides in order to pile on, and an army of millions of internet warriors ready to uphold their nation's honour.

Perhaps George was right after all.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

Tell us what you think. Send us your feedback

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Comments: 3 
. Your ESPN name '' will be used to display your comments. Please click here to edit this.
Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by Android on (July 19, 2014, 1:30 GMT)

When England or any other team play at home against India they should be able to use drs if teams travel to India abide by in dias ruling no drs

Posted by Dummy4 on (July 18, 2014, 0:12 GMT)

Just because someone comes from the same country as you came from doesn't make them right, doesn't make them ethical, doesn't make them infallible.

I'm Australian.

Does that mean I think Lillee was right to kick Miandad?

Does that mean I approve of yobbos pelting John Snow with beer cans?

Does that mean I think underarm bowling was totally justified?

Does that mean I think that Lehmann's racist outburst was in any way acceptable?

Does that mean I think punching opposition players in bars/casinos is part and parcel of sport?

No, no, no, no and no.

I wasn't at Trent Bridge, I don't know what happened, I'm not going to assume Jadeja is in the right, nor am I going to assume Anderson was in the right. If I were asked to guess I would suggest it was one of those regrettable 50-50 things but I just don't know. And until more detail comes out can everyone just put down their phones and focus on the game.

Posted by xxxxx on (July 17, 2014, 13:48 GMT)

George Orwell also said "the essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection". Cricketers, like commentators and fans, are human and in a highly competitive environment with a lot at stake will occasionally say and do things they later regret. This has always been the case on the cricket field as in life.

What is different about the modern game is that every word and nuance is magnified out of all proportion by some, especially some commentators and journalists who no doubt find it facile copy that keeps them in work.

A far bigger and more real danger to our game than an odd angry word or incident is cricket played by automatons without heart or spirit.

Email this page to a friend Email Feedback Feedback Print Print
RSS FeedAll
Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

All Articles »

Andrew HughesClose
Andrew Hughes Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73
  • ESPN
  • ESPNF1
  • Scrum
  • Soccernet