Sarfaraz Ahmed hopeful of continuing role as captain as suspension comes to an end

Suspended Pakistani skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who is currently serving a four-match ban for making a racist remark about a South African cricketer, said he is hopeful of continuing his role as captain as his ban comes to an end.

Ahmed was caught making a racist remark on camera on Jan 22 during the second One-Day International (ODI) against Proteas. As Phehlukwayo got lucky despite playing a risky shot, Ahmed was heard 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?)

Following the incident, the skipper apologised to the South African team and Phehlukwayo, and his apology was accepted by both parties. The ICC subsequently handed Ahmed a four-match suspension for breaching its Anti-Racism Code. He will also have to undergo an education programme to understand the issue. Shoaib Malik was appointed captain while Ahmed served his suspension.

As the four-match ban comes to an end today with the 2nd T20 International against South Africa in Johannesbug, the skipper at a press conference in Karachi said that he looks forward to resuming his role as captain.

Ahmed explained that making comments from behind the stumps was part of his “nature” and captaincy style. “My nature cannot be changed. I captain my team this way,” he said. “It is my nature to offer support from behind [the stumps] and to keep backing my team. If I deviate from my nature, it’s possible that my game will be affected.”

Speaking about his individual performance, the skipper admitted that he had lagged behind in some matches, but described his overall performance as satisfactory.

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“The PCB will decide [about my captaincy], but I hope I will remain captain. My overall performance is good. Yes, it is not at a very excellent level,” he conceded. “We will hopefully improve in the future.”

The skipper admitted he had made a mistake, owned up to it and apologised for it, and added that he would try to ensure there is no repeat incident in the future.

Ahmed complained that when the incident took place, “one word was taken and turned into a big issue”.

He said that when he met Phehlukwayo and offered him an apology, he told him he had used the word kaala for him. “I said, ‘This is the word I used to refer to you’, and he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine, but you made inappr**opriate comments about my mother’,” the skipper told journalists.

“I explained to him that as Muslims, it is our belief … Any player in our cricket team has reached here because of the prayers of his mother,” Ahmed said, adding that he had told the South African cricketer that he was there to apologise for using “that word” but “didn’t say anything wrong” about his mother.

“If you look at the content [of my remarks], there was no such thing in there. There was just one word and, you know, it is considered normal [here] when it slips out. That was the mistake,” Ahmed said.

“The media highlighted the word kaala and said it was racist and unethical … I’m not angry with the ICC [for the suspension], but with the people who turned the incident into a big deal,” the cricketer concluded.

When asked about his mother’s response to the incident, Ahmed quoted her as saying: “They said so many negative things about my child over such a small matter.”

When asked about the Pakistan Cricket Board’s response to the ICC suspension, Ahmed declined to comment. “We’ve done what we could and we fulfilled the ICC’s requirements. The PCB can better share its stance with you.”

While responding to a question about other players who are currently out of the team, he said that not one is subjected to unfair treatment. He explained that a rotation policy is in place for players and that all capable players will be given an opportunity to prove their mettle.

Ahmed added that team players are in good spirits, enthusiastic, and their morale is high.

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