RED FORCE coach and former Windies pacer Mervyn Dillon has come to the defence of fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who was banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for four matches in the upcoming One-Day International series against England.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, Gabriel gave his version of the day three incident in the 3rd Test in St Lucia.
Gabriel said he was irked by Root looking at him and smiling.
He said, "The exchange occurred during a tense moment on the field. 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. 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?'
"His response, which was picked up on the microphone, was: 'Don't use it as an insult. There's nothing wrong with being gay.' I then responded, 'I have no issues with that , but you should stop smiling at me.'"
Dillon, speaking to Newsday yesterday, believes the ban was "excessive" and feels the ICC should not get involved with banter on the field.
The 44-year-old said, "Why we chastising as if Shannon did something wrong? If that is the comment, I don't see anything wrong with what Shannon said. It was blown out of proportion."
Dillon, who represented the regional side from 1997-2005, said bowlers have always tried to get under a batsman's skin to throw them off with all sorts of comments.
"I can tell you in my days with all the fast bowlers that have been around, we all played mind games on the cricket field. To take it off the cricket field I think is an injustice. It's something we use on the cricket field," he said.
On the length of the ban, Dillon said, "It's excessive. If somebody is looking at me and smiling, then my inclination, because we live in a society that is very inclusive with the LGBT community, I would have done the same thing."
The Toco native added, "I'm surprised Shannon said a word, to be honest. The person I know (is) very quiet and reserved. He's growing in stature in the game, so he's a little more interactive, but he's a country boy like myself and really nice guy. I remember when he was younger the guys used to tease him about being a little more more mean-spirited. He liked fast bowling, but he was an easygoing kind of nice person."
Former Windies manager Omar Khan said he was not surprised by the ban and felt pleading guilty was the right thing.
He said, "Once the evidence is there, today with the technology available there is so much evidence that can be gathered from the stump microphone and the television coverage. Once there is clear evidence he did make those comments, the logical thing to do would be plead guilty and put it in the past."
He said although emotions run high during matches, players must maintain control.
"At the time it's an emotional reaction but you got to keep your head on and keep away from those things, because it does have an impact with the ICC trying to maintain a certain level of sportsmanship."
There has been speculation whether Windies manager Rawl Lewis did the right thing by advising Gabriel to forego a hearing and plead guilty, but Khan said, "At the end of the day, once the match referee makes the charge and sends it to the player and manager of the team, he basically (already) decides it's a fine and Level One charge. As a former manager, we've had experiences with that in the past, and when you do go to the hearing it's basically a waste of time."