They may have trained hard to counter the short-pitched deliveries in their preparatory camp but it’s a cyber bouncer that has left India’s top cricketers a worried lot.
As the star players gear up for a gruelling season ahead, they are faced with a bizarre problem — cyber impersonation on micro-blogging site Twitter.
The increasing popularity of the site in India has brought with it a problem, which has the potential to create confusion and mislead unsuspecting cricket buffs.
What is worse, the players, who have millions of fans in a cricket-crazy nation, can do little about it.
Most of the celebrated Indian players have accounts on Twitter but almost all of them are fake. They have already drawn a huge list of dedicated followers and it keeps growing every passing day.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has four ‘accounts’ on the networking site with one of them having attracted 2291 followers till Sunday.
In the profile page, it shows Dhoni with the Indian cap and the bio says “I am the captain of the national cricket team“.
Dhoni’s agents and family members have made it clear that the Indian captain does not have an account on Twitter, seeking to dissociate themselves from the handiwork of a prankster who operates the page.
“Dhoni does not have an account on Twitter. Many people have called us and we want to clarify this point” his elder brother Narendra Singh Dhoni said.
Some of the tweets from the impersonated Dhoni account, which ranges from the problems in DDCA to Vinod Kambli’s reality show, have already created some controversy.
For example, a tweet on August 26 said “I wanted to give my regards to Vinod Kambli. Had he played to his potential, he had the chance to be as great as Sachin and Lara“.
But apparently, it led to some misunderstanding among his followers. Hence another tweet within hours on the same day said “Please don’t misunderstand comments about Sachin and Kambli. Sachin is the greatest batsman to ever play the game of cricket!!”
The cyber impersonation on Twitter is not restricted to Dhoni. Champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar has as many as seven accounts with one of them, which has his photo, having over 4594 followers.
Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir are among the top cricketers who have to deal with this Twitter menace.
With many celebrities worldwide joining the Twitter bandwagon, the micro-blogging site is aware of such problems and has introduced a ‘verified account’ badge to lend genuineness to the account and prevent identity confusion.
“To prevent identity confusion, Twitter is experimenting (beta testing) with a ‘Verified Account’ feature. We’re working to establish authenticity with people who deal with impersonation or identity confusion on a regular basis,” a Twitter communication said.
“With this feature, you can easily see which accounts we know are ‘real’ and authentic. That means we’ve been in contact with the person or entity the account is representing and verified that it is approved. (This does not mean we have verified who, exactly, is writing the tweets.)
“This also does not mean that accounts without the ‘Verified Account’ badge are fake. The vast majority of accounts on the system are not impersonators, and we don’t have the ability to check 100 per cent of them. For now, we’ve only verified a handful of accounts to help with cases of mistaken identity or impersonation” it said.
Twitter has strict guidelines to prevent impersonation but it will find it difficult to keep track of such practices unless specific complaints are made.
The site’s impersonation policy says: “Pretending to be another person or business as entertainment or in order to deceive is impersonation.”
“Non-parody impersonation is a violation of the terms of service, specifically article 4, which states: You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.”
The standard for defining parody is, “would a reasonable person be aware that it’s a joke.” An account may be guilty of impersonation if it confuses or misleads others — accounts with the clear intent to confuse or mislead will be permanently suspended.Parody impersonation accounts are allowed to exist. The profile information on a parody account must make it obvious that the profile is fake, or it is subject to removal from Twitter.
Fortunately, it is still early days for web impersonation in India and therefore the damage has been limited among ‘tweeple’, a term said to have been coined by Bollywood director Karan Johar to describe people on Twitter.
But many avid Dhoni fans are gradually realising that they have been fooled by a prankster. “All these days I was thinking I was following my hero Dhoni. But now I know it’s not him. I am disappointed,” said Chetna Rai, a Dhoni fan in Ghaziabad.