Sensitive players vs opinionated pundits

Using Denesh Ramdin's now infamous note to Sir Viv Richards as inspiration, it brought up the question of the nature of punditry, and how sportsmen react to criticism.

Using Denesh Ramdin's now infamous note to Sir Viv Richards as inspiration, it brought up the question of the nature of punditry, and how sportsmen react to criticism.

Ramdin took offense to Sir Viv questioning his form on the England tour, as the West Indies legend was being paid to do, and he was pretty much correct in his assessment of the wicketkeeper's recent innings.

Richards didn't get personal, and yet Ramdin took it personally, despite only scoring 1, 43, 6 and 1 in his four Test appearances on this tour, prior to his century at Edgbaston.

This trend of hitting back at commentators, often people far more accomplished than the sportsman being commented upon, has grown of late, especially in the age of technology.

Twitter, the Everyman's link to the celebrity and the easiest way to air a grievance, has seen a number of sports people lash out at their critics when in days of yore you pretty much soaked it up and got on with the game.

One presumes Ramdin does not have a Twitter account, which would explain his bizarrely old-school riposte, and you have to wonder how long he'd been carrying that crumpled note around for, just in case he had occasion to brandish it. Richards wasn't being 'mean' and while pundits may get things wrong sometimes, they are rarely malicious in their paid-for opinions.

Another cricketer in the headlines in recent weeks for airing his views, this time tweeting merrily away, was Kevin Pietersen. This has been rehashed many times before, but it plays into the point, even though KP didn't take offense at WHAT Nick Knight said but rather that he was saying anything at all on international television.

This time though, it was Knight's response that was more interesting. He hit back at Pietersen, saying the Surrey man's decision to retire from limited-overs cricket was correct as he wasn't much of an ODI player anyway. This amused many, as KP's ODI credentials are better than Knight's, who was considered an ODI specialist in his day. Tit for tat. KP did not tweet a response to the jibe, probably fearing another fine from the ECB.

Switching sports, one can find a magnificent example of a sportsman reacting furiously via Twitter to what a pundit had said about him. Footballer Joey Barton, no stranger to controversy, was positively enraged at what his former manager at Newcastle, Alan Shearer, had to say after Barton's red card on the final day of the season.

Given that Shearer was one of a number of commentators discussing Barton's actions against QPR, it was shocking to see how angrily Barton reacted to the former England international's comments, which weren't off the mark, offensive or controversial.

Barton raged: "Shearer's still on my case… I know I f***** up Alan, thanks for stating the obvious.

"Whilst were both stating the obvious about each other, can I just say for the record what a great player u were. Well better me…

"But I have a better hair (which is not hard), wear well better shirts on TV and have a personality (something u lack).

"P.S. My final point, ur a s*** pundit/manager…

"I really don't like that p****, in fact I honestly despise him… Goodnight."

Another footballer to respond to his critics in print, this time via his t-shirt, was the perennially headlineable Mario Balotelli. The Italian striker, playing for Manchester City, revealed a shirt reading "Why always me?" after scoring a goal against Manchester United in October last year.

While it wasn't aimed at anyone specific, and didn't offend a sporting legend ala Ramdin's note, it was an obvious response to the media's interest in him. The 21-year-old had apparently grown tired of the attention, but given his propensity for getting sent off, setting off firecrackers in his house and other odd behaviour, it was interesting that he couldn't understand why people wrote about him.

Sports people seem to forget that their jobs involve the spotlight, and that the millions they often earn is a direct result of the media's attention and people watching them on TV. If no one watched, and no-one commentated, they wouldn't get paid.

<B>Lindsay du Plessis</B>