ICC’s suspension of Shannon Gabriel sends strong message: Mike Atherton
Shannon Gabriel and Joe Root during the St Lucia Test. © Getty

Former England captain Mike Atherton believes that the ICC‘s four-ODI suspension of West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel for his comments towards Joe Root during the St Lucia Test has sent a message to international cricketers: that abuse on the cricket field will not be tolerated.

Gabriel will miss the first four matches of the ODI series between West Indies and England after accepting an ICC charge relating to a comment made to Root. The England skipper, in response to something Gabriel asked him, was heard by the Sky Sports microphones saying: “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.” (READ MORE: ‘Do you like boys?’ Shannon Gabriel reveals details in “unreserved apology”)

“It’s very vague, it doesn’t go into specifics but there is a generality there in that we know Gabriel directed some abuse Root’s way because he has accepted the charge,” said Atherton on Sky Sports Cricket. “It is just a message to cricketers to let your cricket do the talking and there is no place for abuse on a cricket field. Now that stump microphones have been raised, cricketers need to realise that the old adage of ‘what goes on on the field, stays on the field’ no longer applies.

“The field of play is just like any other workplace and you have to be damn careful what you say. That said, I think cricketers need to be judged on what they have said, not what people assume they have said. We still don’t know what Gabriel said so I am making no assumptions on that count.”

Atherton’s former team-mate Nasser Hussain, another England captain turned TV pundit, hoped that Gabriel’s suspension did not take away from West Indies’ 2-1 Test series triumph over England.

“I hope the series is not remembered for that one incident as it was just one incident,” said Hussain. “Everyone will go on that Gabriel was at Root and Ben Stokes throughout the series and he was – but he was in a perfectly decent way. Then he has gone over the top and match referees, who are not prepared to tolerate it, have come down hard on him. That is the right thing to do but I hope it doesn’t overshadow a wonderful series.”