DateLine: 15th January 2007
South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs was Monday banned for two Test matches for remarks about Pakistan supporters which were picked up by a stump microphone during the first Test at Centurion Park.
South African captain Graeme Smith said he couldn't condone the comments by Gibbs but said the team was angry about the incidents which led to the player's outburst.
Speaking before International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee Chris Broad made his finding, Smith accused Pakistan supporters of racial abuse.
Gibbs was found guilty by Broad after being charged by ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed of a Level 3 offence for using "language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person's race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethic origin."
In addition to Speed's intervention, the Pakistan Cricket Board lodged an official complaint with Broad through their team management.
Gibbs, who was photographed leaving the South African dressing room following the hearing with two beers in his hands, faces a separate Cricket South Africa hearing Tuesday for contravening a clause in the body's code of conduct relating to verbal abuse or conduct "on the basis of race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin." The hearing will be conducted by former judge Mervyn King.
Television viewers heard Gibbs making insulting remarks about Pakistan supporters when a stump microphone picked up what he said to team-mates in the centre of the field.
Speaking after South Africa completed a seven-wicket win over Pakistan, Smith hit out at abusive Pakistan supporters, poor security and television companies which allowed conversations on the field to be broadcast.
"There's a lot of anger," he said. "There was quite a lot of racial abuse from the Pakistan fans towards our players and I think that provoked a lot of what happened.
"There was a particular incident where I went down and got security to move guys away from (boundary fielder) Paul Harris. Herschelle was down at third man and he was copping a lot of abuse and I think even racial abuse."
Smith said the television company responsible for the stump mike were to blame for allowing Gibbs' comments to be broadcast.
Gibbs maintained he was guilty of a Level 1 offence, which refers to the use of "...language that is obscene, offensive or insulting and/or the making of an obscene gesture."
However, in finding Gibbs guilty of the Level 3 offence, Broad said: "I took into account the mitigating circumstances that the players were provoked by unruly spectators.
"However the remark was racially offensive, the player admitted saying it and on that basis I am content that the level of the charge and the resulting punishment is appropriate.
"Cricket has a zero tolerance of racism, as has been illustrated by the introduction last year of an amended ICC Anti-Racism Code, and this decision is an illustration of that fact." Gibbs has a right of appeal within 24 hours of the verdict.
SA chief executive Gerald Majola said in a statement: "CSA has investigated the matter and we have heard the remarks made by Herschelle Gibbs in response to verbal abuse directed by a number of Pakistan supporters at Paul Harris while he was fielding on the boundary.
"Herschelle says these remarks were for the ears only of his team-mates in his proximity, and were directed in general terms at that section of the crowd that had verbally abused Paul Harris. He has apologised if he has caused offence to anyone."
Majola said the action was taken in terms of CSA regulations which stemmed from the International Cricket Council's anti-racism policy.
It was reported from Pakistan that Saleem Altaf, the PCB director of cricket, had confirmed that a complaint had been made. Altaf said both the Pakistan and South African boards had copies of tapes of the remarks.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)
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