Sarfraz Ahmed Image Credit: AP

Lahore: Sarfraz Ahmad will continue as captain of Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup despite being banned for a racial taunt last month.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has a policy of appointing captains series by series, but took the unusual step on Tuesday of backing Sarfraz to at least July as captain of the Test, One Day International and Twenty20 teams.

“I was always clear in my mind that Sarfraz would be the captain (for the Cricket World Cup),” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said beside Sarfraz at a news conference in Lahore.

“I was keen to speak with him on the team’s recent performances… about his own future plans as we all know he has undergone some tough times as a professional cricketer in the past few weeks.”

There was speculation in the local media about keeping Sarfraz as the captain after he was banned for four matches by the ICC for racially taunting South Africa all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo in an ODI two weeks ago in Durban.

Sarfraz 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 apologised to Phehlukwayo, and publicly. Sarfraz added he won’t stop talking behind the wickets, and Mani criticised the ICC for banning him, believing the apologies were enough.

When Mani was asked whether he was sending a message to the ICC by reappointing Sarfraz as captain, the chairman said: “I don’t want to go into politics, it’s nothing like that we wanted to send some sort of a message.”

Mani added: “Sarfraz has been an integral part of the Pakistan cricket team’s World Cup preparations and has proved to be a good strategist, leader and performer.”

Since being made captain two years ago, Sarfraz has led Pakistan to 21 victories in 35 ODIs, including winning the Champions Trophy in 2017 in England. Under Sarfraz’s leadership, Pakistan has risen in the ODI rankings from ninth to fifth.

Sarfraz said he was delighted the PCB showed their faith in him again.

“It is the dream of any international cricketer to play in a World Cup,” Sarfraz said. “But to be appointed captain in the biggest cricket spectacle on the planet is something that is extremely special.”