SARFRAZ Ahmed is known for giving voice to his emotions during a cricket game, often when things are not going his way — which, unfortunately, has been the case in recent days.

The ICC must now be debating how to penalise him for the racist remarks he passed during the second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan on Tuesday.

His comments came when after an early promise of triumph, the Pakistan side was unable to break a partnership between two Proteas batsmen that eventually clinched the game for the hosts. The incident was all the more regrettable since it took place in South Africa — in Durban of all places — which has been at the forefront of the war against racism right from the apartheid days.

All along cricket was central to the discussion during the years when South Africa faced international isolation for its discriminatory policies. Even today, the country moves on the subject with the greatest of caution.

It is distressing that Sarfraz can be indiscreet — at a cost to his own stature and that of his team and country.

In this case, he may have been pulled up when, on the face of it, he was not addressing the player in question directly. Perhaps, the show of anger that is often associated with our national team skipper towards the end of a game that Pakistan is losing was also absent.

Yet, the statement was bad enough: it was clear what he said and who the derogatory term was aimed at. It was quite enough to worry the ICC which is becoming increasingly strict regarding any racist words spoken or rude gestures employed during cricket matches. It will not brook, and justifiably so, any expression that may appear to insult or offend on the basis of “race, religion, culture, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin”.

For his sake, one hopes that the ICC will show some leniency especially now that South Africa has accepted Sarfraz’s apology.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2019

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