Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Orville Higgins | That Gabriel, Root clash

Published:Saturday | February 16, 2019 | 12:17 AM
Shannon Gabriel
England’s captain Joe Root.

The decision by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to ban Windies pacer Shannon Gabriel for four one-day internationals has been on everyone’s lips over the past few days. Gabriel was sanctioned because he was said to have breached Section 2.13 of the ICC code of conduct regarding personal abuse of a player. Let me remind my readers that the sanction came about because Gabriel had two other incidents over the last 24 months, involving physical confrontations with Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed and Imrul Kayes from Bangladesh.

Several things about the whole incident I find strange, even disturbing.

The ICC charged Gabriel for a breach purely on a retort made by England captain Joe Root that was picked up by the stump microphone. Root is reported to have said “don’t use that as insult, there is nothing wrong with being gay.” The stump microphone never picked up what Root was responding to and therein lies the problem for me.

How on earth do you sanction someone for the response of another person? How can Gabriel be sanctioned for personal abuse of a player when at the time of the charge, the microphones, and by extension the ICC, had no idea what Gabriel said? That on the surface makes zero sense to me. The fact that Gabriel subsequently admitted to asking Root “Do you like boys?” is beside the point. What if Gabriel had gone to the hearing and said he hadn’t made any homophobic statement what would the ICC then do? Their “evidence” would be based on Root’s words alone and that wouldn’t be justice at all.

Now that Gabriel has confessed, and subsequently apologised for his utterances, I find it incredible that people are defending him, that he did nothing wrong. According to those siding with Gabriel, all he did was ask a mere question. That is just so wrong. There are questions that are meant to be taken far more seriously than a mere attempt at getting an answer. If I see you smiling and laughing with a toddler and I asked “are you a paedophile?”, that must not be seen as a mere question. When Shylock inMerchant of Venice, in defending Jews, said “if you prick us do we not bleed...?” he was not just asking a question. Gabriel’s question to Root was abusive and was meant to be insulting. How anybody can defend him on this is beyond me. One more thing about this bothers me. It is not the ICC that controls the stump microphones. That falls within the domain of the TV broadcasters for the event.

No instructions

At this point there are no clear and rigid instructions to the TV broadcasters as to when the stump microphones should be turned on or up or down. The person operating the stump microphones can, apparently, turn the mike up or down at his leisure which does leave the room open for corruption. If he wants to get a player in trouble he can simply turn up the thing when he is dishing out abuse and simply turn it down for another player doing the very same thing. That has to be regulated. Either one way or the other for me. It’s either on for the whole game or off for the whole game.

Finally, Gabriel has been banned for four ODI’s. He was not picked to play in the first two and may not have featured in the rest of the series anyway.

How effective then is this four-match ban in real terms? And while we are at it, why the double punishment of a four-match ban and 75 per cent of match fee. Should it not be one or the other? The ICC has to be careful that while it is trying to tighten up on verbal abuse, it doesn’t take away the on- field banters that have always been part of the game.