Root’s comments could be heard on television having been picked up via the stump microphone, but Gabriel’s part of the conversation was not audible.
Kirsty Clarke, director of sport at Stonewall – which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, and runs the Rainbow Laces campaign which is supported by Sky Sports – said: “Language is really influential, and it’s great if Joe Root was willing to challenge potentially abusive comments.
“The more players, fans, clubs, and organisations that stand up for equality in sport, the sooner we kick discrimination out and make sport everyone’s game.
“Stonewall research shows more than half of British people (58 per cent) believe it’s important anti-LGBT language is challenged at live sporting events.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain, in St Lucia in his role as a commentator for Sky Sports, tweeted his admiration for Root’s stance.
“I don’t know who said what to whom… but boy do I applaud Joe Root’s reaction here,” Hussain wrote.
“For me, his 12 words as a role model will be in the end more important than a Test hundred or possible victory.”
There was also support from the football world, with Gary Lineker posting footage of the incident, accompanied by the caption “perfect response”, while another former England footballer, Ian Wright tweeted “well played and well said Sir”.
Speaking after finishing day three on 111 not out, Root gave a measured assessment of the on-field exchange but would not be drawn on the words used by Gabriel.
“It’s Test cricket,” he said.
“He’s an emotional guy trying to do everything he can to win a Test match.
“Sometimes people say things on the field that they might regret, but they should stay on the field.”