Shannon Gabriel apologises to Joe Root but is adamant he did not use homophobic language

Shannon Gabriel and Joe Root shake hands after the third Test - Action Images via Reuters
Shannon Gabriel and Joe Root shake hands after the third Test - Action Images via Reuters

Shannon Gabriel has apologised to Joe Root for their confrontation in the third Test but is adamant he did not use homophobic language in an incident that has cost him a four-match ban.

Gabriel did not contest a level-two charge for personal abuse levelled by the umpires at the end of the match but has told sources he did not use homophobic language despite Root being picked up by stump microphones saying, “Don’t use it as abuse. There is nothing wrong with being gay.”

One of the umpires is believed to have heard the abuse and after it became clear Root would give evidence, Gabriel decided not to challenge the charge and was banned for four ODIs and fined 75 per cent of his match fee.

Gabriel’s apology came at the end of play on Wednesday when England had wrapped up victory. After what had been a generally good-natured series, the teams shared a drink together.

Gabriel was awarded three demerit points on his record that took his tally to eight, triggering a suspension for two Test matches or four ODIs, depending on what comes first for the player. There was no mention in the ICC statement of what he said that led to the ban.

Gabriel has not played ODI cricket since 2017 so was expecting to miss two Tests against India in July which would have ruled him out of international cricket until October but the West Indies successfully argued he was in contention to play in the one-day series against England. He was left out of the squad for the first two matches but was lucky the selectors said in a media release earlier this month he was under consideration to play the latter half of the series. Since the squad was announced, Keemo Paul and Rovman Powell have pulled out injured and Gabriel was in line to replace them.

Last week the ICC banned Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, for using racist language and it is clear there is now a zero-tolerance policy towards abusive sledging. With stump microphones now turned up and picking up more words said out in the middle, players will have to be careful or more will be banned.

The West Indies accepted Gabriel’s punishment but have told the ICC they expect it to be consistent in applying its punishment, especially with the Ashes looming which has been tarnished in recent years by unacceptable levels of personal abuse.

Turning up the stump microphones has not been popular with many players and coaches who feel heat-of-the-moment expressions of anger that are later regretted by individuals should be treated sensibly by the authorities.

“I've said it once before, no I'm not in favour of it and I'm not going to change my mind,” said Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, when asked about stump microphones. “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 it 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.”

England travel to Barbados on Thursday to begin preparations for the one-day leg of the tour which starts with a warm-up game on Sunday before the first ODI at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday.

Bayliss has warned Ben Foakes faces a lengthy spell out of the Test side after deciding the experiment of batting Jonny Bairstow up the order at No 3 is over.

Foakes was dropped for the third Test despite averaging 41.50 from five Tests and keeping immaculately in difficult conditions this winter. Foakes lost his place because England want to accommodate Bairstow in the side but he has averaged 27 since he was promoted to five last May and developed a problem with being bowled through the gate. He remains first choice for now but Foakes is putting pressure on Bairstow for his place in the side.

“It is one of those things, he (Bairstow) is working on it and he has got to continue to work on it,” said Bayliss. “Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you work on it though, if you've been playing a certain way for a long time it is difficult to get out of it in a hurry. He is aware of it.”

Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes - Credit: getty images
Jonny Bairstow (right) is back in possession of the gloves Credit: getty images

When asked if Bairstow back down the order permanently is bad news for Foakes, Bayliss replied “yes, unfortunately.”

He added: “The good thing about Foakes is that obviously he is a very good keeper, and I think we've discovered someone who can put pressure on that middle order from a batting point of view. I've said that we've struggled to get guys in county cricket putting pressure on the guys in the team, including the middle order, and Foakesy has shown he could be one of those guys to put some some pressure on.”

Bayliss left the door open for Keaton Jennings to stay in the side but his career looks over for the time being after another poor series against pace bowling and England are looking at others to bat in the top three including James Vince, Ben Duckett and Jason Roy.