The International Cricket Council handed Sarfraz Ahmed a four-match suspension on Sunday after a racist remark made by the Pakistan captain was picked up by a stump microphone in South Africa last week.
Sarfraz was heard making a comment in Urdu about Andile Phehlukwayo during last week’s one-day international in Durban, where the South African all-rounder formed a match-winning partnership with Rassie van der Dussen.
According to espncricinfo.com, the comment could be translated as: “Hey black guy, where’s your mother sitting today? What [prayer] have you got her to say for you today?”
The global cricket governing body’s chief executive David Richardson said as he announced the ban that the ICC “has a zero-tolerance policy towards conduct of this nature.”
Sarfraz later apologized for the comment. “I wish to extend my sincere apologies to any person who may have taken offense from my expression of frustration… My words were not directed towards anyone in particular and I certainly had no intention of upsetting anyone,” Sarfraz wrote on Twitter. “I did not even mean for my words to be heard, understood or communicated to the opposing team or the cricket fans.”
The apology was given weight by the ICC as it handed out its suspension.
“Sarfraz has promptly admitted the offense, was regretful of his actions and has issued a public apology, so these factors were taken into account when determining an appropriate sanction,” said Richardson.
The Pakistan Cricket Board expressed its “utmost disappointment” with the decision, saying it believed a ban was unnecessary because the matter had already been resolved between the two players. “PCB anticipated that the matter had been resolved amicably between the two players and the two Boards following Sarfraz Ahmed’s public apologies which were accepted by the player, the Board and South Africa cricket team,” it said. It said it would argue at ICC forums “[to promote] amicable resolutions to issues as opposed to penalties.”
It added that Sarfraz would return immediately to Pakistan.
Phehlukwayo seemed at ease about the incident after the match, saying: “It was good chat.”
Sarfraz was replaced as captain by Shoaib Malik for Sunday’s fourth one-day international of a five-match series that Pakistan lead 2-1. Pakistan won the toss and decided to bowl with rain forecast later in the day.
Pakistan will play three Twenty20 matches in Cape Town next month.
The country is ranked number one in Twenty20 internationals and have won nine consecutive matches, as well as a world record 17 out of the 19 T20Is they played last year.
Pakistan have recalled fast bowler Mohammad Amir from the 15-man squad for the three-match Twenty20 series against South Africa.
The 26-year-old left-armer was left out of the limited-over and Test squads after a poor showing in last year’s Asia Cup, but was brought back into both for the ongoing tour of South Africa.