Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed was heard on camera making racist remarks directed at South African batsman Andile Phehlukwayo who, along with Hendrick van der Dussen, had guided Proteas to a series-levelling win against the green shirts in the second One-Day International on Tuesday.
As South African batsman Andile Phehlukwayo got lucky despite playing a risky shot, a stump mic picked up Sarfraz saying: "Hey black [man], where is your mother sitting? What prayer did you get her to say for you today?" (Abay kaalay, teri ammi aaj kahan baitheen hain? Kya parhwa ke aya hai aaj tu?)
Up in the commentary box, Mike Haysman was heard asking Ramiz Raja what the captain had said. Raja responded: "Difficult really to translate that. It's a big long sentence. [He's] obviously feeling that the left-hander has been very lucky."
Sarfraz's remarks could land him in hot water if the International Cricket Council decides his comments constitute an offence under its code.
The ICC's Anti-Racism Code for Participants states that the following conduct, if committed by a participant at any time during, or in relation to, an international match, shall amount to an offence: "Engaging in any conduct (whether through the use of language, gestures or otherwise), which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, threaten, disparage or vilify any reasonable person in the position of a player, player support personnel, umpire, match referee, umpire support personnel or any other person (including a spectator) on the basis of their race, religion, culture, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin".
If, after due process is followed and a judicial commissioner has determined that an offence has been committed under the code, the offender will be handed an appropriate sanction depending on whether or not they are a repeat offender.
Soon after the match, former paceman Shoaib Akhtar had tweeted that the skipper must "explain himself to the media and public regarding his comments to the batsman".
Although the general sentiment among the public on social media appeared to be in Sarfraz's corner, some Twitter users pointed out that the captain's remarks were offensive.
Sports journalist Taha Anis said: "People are actually saying Sarfraz should get away with it because racism is acceptable in Pakistan. Shouldn't he get an even more severe punishment precisely because racism is so accepted that we need to do our best to curb out this menace?"
Asia News International News Editor Smita Prakash pointed out that there is "little awareness that it is a racial slur" in the Indian subcontinent.
PCB expresses regret
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) issued a statement on Wednesday following what it termed "an unfortunate incident" which took place in Durban a day earlier.
“The PCB expresses regret over the remark made by their captain Sarfaraz Ahmed and picked up by the stump mic during the second ODI against South Africa in Durban. The PCB neither endorses nor supports any comments that have the potential to cause offence, and firmly reiterates their zero-tolerance approach towards racist comments made; in whatever context," said the statement by the cricket board.
The cricketing body vowed to pay more attention to "player education and training at all levels".
“The PCB endeavours to improve their player education programmes to ensure these types of incidents do not happen again.
“Sarfaraz is one of the most respected cricketers in the world. However, captaining Pakistan is a massive honour and any hurtful remarks by any cricketer, let alone the captain, are not acceptable to the PCB," the statement said in clear terms.
The PCB also expressed confidence that the incident will not affect the series "which has been played in great spirit with some excellent performances from both sides".