KARACHI: Pakistan cricket captain Sarfraz Ahmed vowed Tuesday to be a better player as he returned home after being handed a four-match ban for a racial slur against a South African player in Durban last week.
The 31-year-old was heard on a stump microphone making a comment in Urdu about Andile Phehlukwayo during the second One-day International.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Sunday banned Sarfraz for four matches — two ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals — of the South African tour.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) expressed disappointment over the punishment — saying it believed a ban was unnecessary because the matter had already been resolved between the two players — and withdrew the Pakistan captain from the tour.
Sarfraz was greeted as he landed back at Karachi airport by some 200 fans, who held placards condemning the ICC’s decision — said the matter is behind him.
“Whatever happened has happened,” Sarfraz told media at the airport after landing from Cape Town. “I accepted my mistake. I would like to thank the PCB, for handling the situation well, and the decision made by the ICC is in front of you.
“I will improve myself and my performance in the future and I thank my supporters for their backing.”
The ICC said Sarfraz will have to attend “an education programme to promote the understanding and awareness of issues directly relevant to the offence that he has committed.”
In Sarfraz’s absence, Shoaib Malik led the team to an eight wicket win in the fourth match in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Pakistan and South Africa meet in the final match in Cape Town on Wednesday, with the series tied at 2-2. That will be followed by a three-match Twenty20 international series.
Asked about PCB’s decision to recall him, Sarfraz said: “I don’t see anything in it as I was playing cricket for the last five months. I will rest and then play Pakistan Super League,”, referring to the league starting in the United Arab Emirates from February 14.
But Sarfraz blasted former fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who condemned his action as unacceptable for someone leading Pakistan, saying Shoaib was launching “personal attacks”.
Shoaib lambasted on the Pakistani captain and demanded a public apology. “The incident is completely unacceptable for a Pakistani. I think he did this in the heat of the moment and he should publicly apologise,” the former pacer said in his video tweet.
On Monday, Sarfraz received the backing from former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram who slammed PCB’s decision to call back the skipper and backed the 31-year-old to lead the side in the World Cup this year.
“It was a wrong decision to call him back from South Africa when he could have played in the final T20 on February 6,” the fast bowling great told reporters. “What Sarfaraz did was wrong but it is also a fact that more than anyone else, Pakistanis around the world hyped up his comments and created an issue.
“There is no need to change the captain before the World Cup. We need a long term captain not a short term one. Malik is leading the team now and is doing a fine job but even he has said he will retire from ODIs after the World Cup.
“Sarfraz is still learning and will get better as he matures and gains more experience. It would be wrong to remove him as captain.”