Sarfraz hopes ban won't stop him leading Pakistan in WCup

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's banned captain Sarfraz Ahmed hopes his four-match suspension 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 in the southern port city of Karachi on Sunday.

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

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

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

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

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

In the incident, Sarfraz, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, 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 apologized 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 criticized 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 has won two major ICC tournaments — the 1992 World Cup and the 2017 Champions Trophy — during Muslims' fasting month of Ramadan.

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

"Ramadan is always good for the Pakistan team whether it's 1992 World Cup or the Champions Trophy," he said with a smile.

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More AP Cricket: www.apnews.com/Cricket and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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