LONDON: Shannon Gabriel has offered an “unreserved apology” over a comment he made to England captain Joe Root during an incident that led to a ban for the West Indies fast bowler.
Gabriel revealed he said “Do you like boys?”, after the ICC suspended him on Wednesday for four one-day international matches following his exchange of words with Root during the third Test in St Lucia.
Root was heard on stump microphones telling Gabriel, “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
What Gabriel had said prior to Root’s response had not been known until the fast bowler revealed his side of the exchange.
“The pressure was on and England’s captain Joe Root was looking at me intensely as I prepared to bowl, which may have been the usual psychological strategy with which all Test cricketers are familiar,” said Gabriel in a statement quoted on the ICC website.
“I recognise now that I was attempting to break through my own tension when I said to Joe Root, ‘Why are you smiling at me? Do you like boys?'”
Gabriel added, “To my teammates and members of the England team, especially their captain Joe Root, I extend an unreserved apology for a comment which in the context of on-the-field rivalry, I assumed was inoffensive… sporting banter.”
“I know now that it was offensive and for that, I am deeply sorry.”
“Joe Root and I have since spoken and I am comforted by the fact that there are no hard feelings between us.”
Root received praise for his response to Gabriel, made in the process of compiling a century, with fellow sportsmen, politicians and LGBT equality charity Stonewall all applauding his stance.
Gabriel, 30, already had five demerit points against his name for two earlier incidents.
With the addition of the latest three demerit points, he has reached the threshold of eight demerit points, converted into four suspension points.
Four suspension points equate to a ban from two Tests or four ODIs/Twenty20 internationals, whichever come first for the player.
The ICC also fined Gabriel 75% of his match fee after a Test that England won by 232 runs to gain a consolation victory after West Indies had gone 2-0 up in a three-match series with emphatic successes in Barbados and Antigua.
In November, Gabriel was suspended from a Test in Bangladesh when he reached the threshold of four demerit points.
The five-match one-day series starts in Barbados on Feb 20.