England captain Joe Root has been hailed as a ‘gay icon’ after he batted away alleged homophobic abuse from a West Indian rival and told him: ‘There is nothing wrong with being gay’.
The star batsman was involved in an on-pitch row with fast bowler Shannon Gabriel who was warned by the match umpires over his ‘abusive’ language during the third test in Saint Lucia.
It is not clear what Gabriel said but Root, who married his long-term girlfriend Carrie Cotterell in December, shot back: ‘Don’t use that as an insult – there is nothing wrong with being gay’.
Video of the incident has been shared thousands of times on social media overnight and Root’s decision to challenge him has been widely praised, especially by LGBT campaigners.
Fan Mike Newman tweeted: ‘Well done @root66. Hopefully your words will be shown throughout the world and will act as great inspiration to all gay people’.
And Stephen Davies said: ‘Rarely do you hear something said on a sports field that needs applauding but @root66 response “don’t use that as an insult, there’s nothing wrong with being gay” to a slur the cameras didn’t pick up shows any young boy or girl watching don’t be afraid to be you’.
Chloe Petts said: ‘Who would have thought Joe Root would be our new gay icon?’
Tensions boiled over in the final Test of the Wisden Trophy but umpires Rod Tucker and Kumar Dharmasena did not lay a charge against West Indies fast bowler Gabriel for his sledging, believing their on-field intervention was sufficient.
Root, who scored an unbeaten 111, said after the day’s play that Gabriel said something he ‘might regret’ – but said he should not be punished further.
The England captain said: ‘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 they might regret, but they should stay on the field’.
Footage from Sky Sports emerged on social media that appeared to suggest England captain Root said ‘there’s nothing wrong with being gay’ in reply to Gabriel in the 44th over of the second innings.
The England captain refused to confirm what had provoked his comments while match referee Jeff Crowe was satisfied no homophobic language had been detected.
The heated confrontation was not picked up by the stump microphones and West Indies interim coach Richard Pybus responded: ‘Nothing has been reported to me but if a comment was made we’ll review it and if it was untoward then we will be addressing it.’
‘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.’
Root, who hit an unbeaten 111, added: ‘When you play Test cricket there is no such thing as a dead rubber. You have the opportunity to play for your country and it means the world.’