KARACHI: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed gestures during a news conference on Sunday.—White Star
KARACHI: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed gestures during a news conference on Sunday.—White Star

KARACHI: Suspended Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed hopes his four-match ban will not deny him the opportunity to lead his country in the World Cup in England later this year.

“The decision is with the Pakistan Cricket Board, but I have got positive vibes about it that I will be the captain for the World Cup,” Sarfraz told reporters here on Sunday.

The PCB has a policy of naming the captain on a series to series basis.

Sarfraz witnessed the third and final Twenty20 International between Pakistan’s women and the West Indies as the home team won by 12 runs, but lost the series 2-1.

Sarfraz has successfully led the world’s No.1-ranked Pakistan in the Twenty20 format since being named captain in 2016. He also captained Pakistan to a historic victory in the ICC Champions Trophy in England in 2017 when Pakistan were ranked at No. 8 in the eight-team event.

Last month, the ICC suspended Sarfraz for four matches under its anti-racism code for an on-field taunt aimed at South Africa all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo.

He returned home and the PCB handed over the captaincy to Shoaib Malik for the remaining two One-day Internationals and three-match Twenty20 series.

In the incident, the Pakistan wicket-keeper was heard on a stump microphone saying in Urdu: “Hey black man, where is your mother sitting today? What [prayer] have you got her to say for you today?” He made a public apology and also apologised in person to Phehlukwayo ahead of the third ODI last week. But the ICC still found him guilty and banned him for the last two one-day games and the first two T20s.

PCB chairman Ehsan Mani reportedly criticised the ICC for handing Sarfraz the punishment after the cricket board and the Pakistan captain ‘had cleared the air’. Sarfraz said the word ‘black’ was played up in the media while Phehlukwayo had reservations about the words used by the Pakistan captain about his mother.

“Only one word was played up in the media,” Sarfraz said. “He [Phehlukwayo] told me that I used wrong words about his mother, but I told him that being a Muslim we believe that whatever success we achieve it’s because of our mother’s prayers and that I did not use the words in the wrong context.”

Sarfraz said that even the manager of the South Africa team, who was present at the time, endorsed his explanation to Phehlukwayo.

Sarfraz has been quite vocal behind the stumps, which sometimes attracts criticism.

But Sarfraz said he won’t change.

“My nature won’t ever change and all those who have covered me since I played at club level know it very well,” Sarfraz said. “I do the captaincy like that, I talk a lot behind the stumps.”

Pakistan have won two major ICC tournaments the 1992 World Cup and the 2017 Champions Trophy during the holy month of Ramazan.

This year too, the World Cup will start during Ramazan and Sarfraz said it could bode well for Pakistan again.

“Ramazan is always good for the Pakistan team whether it’s 1992 World Cup or the Champions Trophy,” he said with a smile.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2019