West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel has been given a four-match suspension by the ICC for his use of an apparently homophobic remark directed towards Joe Root in the St Lucia Test.
Gabriel, who pleaded guilty to the offence, was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and received three demerit points, pushing him over the threshold for a ban.
Gabriel was charged with a Level Two offence under article 2.13 of the ICC’s Code of Conduct, covering “personal abuse”. There was no formal hearing with the match referee, Jeff Crowe, after he accepted the charge. Although Gabriel was not in the original squad for the first two ODIs against England, he is understood to have been lined up as an injury replacement for Keemo Paul.
Root was picked up by the stump mics while batting on the third day responding to an unheard comment from Gabriel. “Don’t use it as an insult,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
The incident was dealt with at the time by the on-field umpires but Gabriel was charged the following day after the footage received widespread attention. Root said at the close that things said on the field “should stay on the field”, but nevertheless received praise for his stance, including from UK equality charity Stonewall.
Root said he had acted instinctively after hearing comments he profoundly disagreed with. “I just did what I thought was right,” he added. “You have responsibility to go about things in a certain manner on the field and it felt appropriate to act how I did.
“The ICC have got to handle things and I am not in a position to comment but throughout the series it has been played in the right manner between the two sides. West Indies have played some fantastic cricket, they are a good bunch of guys and it would be a shame if it tarnishes it.
“As a player, you feel you have responsibilities to uphold on the field and I stand by what I did.”
Kirsty Clarke, the director of sport for the LGBT charity Stonewall, said Root’s behaviour would help kick discrimination out of sport. “Tackling offensive language is a crucial part of helping LGBT people feel welcome in sport,” she said. “Language is really influential and it’s great Joe Root stepped up to challenge abusive comments.”
The UK sports minister, Mims Davies, said Root deserved huge praise for immediately calling out the remarks and said his actions should “serve as an example to anyone who sees homophobic abuse” to do the same.
“What a leader, ambassador and huge respect for doing the absolute right thing to properly call this out,” she tweeted. “There is no place for it in sports.”
Speaking today before the news of Gabriel’s ban, England coach Trevor Bayliss repeated his feeling that stump microphones should be turned down between deliveries. As well as Gabriel, Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed was last month given a four-match suspension for making a racist remark that was picked up by the TV broadcast.
“I’ve said it once before, no I’m not in favour of it and I’m not going to change my mind,” he said. “If stump mics were around a few years ago there would be some blokes seen as ‘holier than thou’ who would have been in trouble as well.
“I think [stump mics] should be down. I know there are people who think the opposite and think it is good for the game but sometimes in the heat of battle things are said, when guys given a bit of time to sit down and think about it would give themselves a bit of a kick up the backside.”
Gabriel was previously given three demerit points in April 2017 for making deliberate physical contact with Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed; and another two in November last year, following a coming together with Bangladesh’s Imrul Kayes. Having accumulated more than four points, he was banned for the following Test in Dhaka.
He has now reached eight demerit points within the same two-year period, which converts to four suspension points – equivalent to a ban from two Tests or four limited-overs internationals.
England and West Indies will play five ODIs, starting in Barbados next Wednesday. At the time of the West Indies’ squad being announced, chairman of selectors Courtney Browne said: “Shannon Gabriel remains very much in our World Cup plans but with a heavy workload expected in the Test series he will be considered for selection later in the ODI series.”
Now the banned Gabriel will only be eligible for the last ODI.