Joe Root’s reaction during a heated incident with Shannon Gabriel has been lauded as “more important than a victory”.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain reacted on Twitter after Root told the West Indies fast bowler “there’s nothing wrong with being gay” during an on-field incident on day three of the third Test in Saint Lucia.
Hussain tweeted about the alleged sledging incident: “I don’t know who said what to whom… but boy do I applaud Joe Root’s reaction here. For me his twelve words as a role model will be in the end more important than a test hundred or possible victory.”
The Sky Sports cricket expert and columnist insisted that while there was currently no evidence of any wrong-doing by Gabriel, Root’s reaction sent an important message.
He told Sky News: “Joe Root as a role model, as England captain, stood up in the middle of a Test match to what he thought was homophobic abuse and said ‘I’m not having that’. He could have shrugged or laughed it off but he didn’t.
“There’s no room for homophobia on or off the cricket pitch which is why I applaud what Joe Root did.”
Gabriel’s part of the conversation was not picked up by the stump microphone but the Trinidadian was spoken to by at least one of the on-field umpires, Kumar Dharmasena and Rod Tucker, about his language.
Following the close of play, England’s current skipper was asked to explain the tussle with Gabriel.
“It’s Test cricket. He’s an emotional guy trying to do everything he can to win a Test match.
“Sometimes people say things on the field that they might regret, but they should stay on the field.
“He’s a good guy who plays hard cricket and is proud to be in the position he is. The battle was a good contest. He’s had a wonderful series and he should be proud.”
Robbie de Santos, head of campaigns for Stonewall, told Sky News: “What we’ve seen here is a genuine response from Joe Root that will be really heartening to LGBT people throughout sport that there are allies like this speaking up for us.”
West Indies coach Richard Pybus was unaware of any potential controversy at close of play, but told the BBC: “Nothing has been reported to me but if a comment was made we’ll review it and if it was untoward we’ll be addressing it.”
Sledging is a term used in cricket to describe how some players seek to gain an advantage by insulting or verbally intimidating an opposing player to try to affect their concentration.
(c) Sky News 2019: Joe Root’s reaction in gay sledging row ‘more important than a win’