sarfraz ahmed
Sarfraz Ahmed (AFP Photo)

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was unaware that captain Sarfraz Ahmed would be suspended for four matches over his racist comments when it named him to lead the team in the T20 series in South Africa, an official said Sunday. (ALSO READ: Sarfraz banned for four matches)

Sarfaraz was Sunday suspended for four matches by the International Cricket Council for his racist comments against South Africa all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo during the second one-dayer in Durban on January 22. He will also have to undergo an education programme to understand the issue.

“We were not aware what penalty the ICC would impose on him and and when. There was some doubt if Sarfaraz would face a ban after he had apologised publicly and in person to the South Africa players including Andile Phehlukwayo,” a PCB official told PTI on Sunday.

Sarfraz was heard on stump microphones of making racist remarks directed at Phehlukwayo.

Pakistan replaced Sarfaraz with wicketkeeper-batsman Muhammad Rizwan for the fourth one-dayer with the experienced Shoaib Malik asked to lead the team for the last two ODIs and two T20 games in South Africa.

Rizwan has also been drafted into the T20 squad announced on Saturday in which he was not selected and Sarfaraz was named skipper and keeper.

The PCB official said a decision would be taken shortly when Sarfaraz will return home. “He will be put though a education program immediately to make him realize where he went wrong. The good thing is he immediately apologized for his comments.”

Sarfraz, who leads Pakistan in all three formats, became the first Pakistani player to be penalized by the ICC under its anti-racism code.

A PCB source also said that the ICC had considered an eight-match ban but took into account his prompt apology and the report of the match referee Ranjan Madugalle.

Pakistan’s former captain Muhammad Yousuf said that the ICC had taken the correct decision. “It could have been worse for Sarfraz but this will be a lifetime lesson for him to understand that as captain he carries a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and he can’t behave like this in international matches,” Yousuf said.

Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who had called for Sarfraz’s apology, said the ban was expected and the Pakistan team should be happy that the ban was for just four games. “The ICC and other sports bodies around the world take an extremely serious view of any racist comments in the modern era,” he noted.

According to media reports, Pakistan’s chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq and South African players Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir had played major roles in diffusing the situation.

Inzamam, who is in South Africa watching the one-day series with the World Cup in mind, used his friendship with Amla and Tahir to diffuse the situation.

The ‘Daily Jang’ newspaper reported that Inzamam had approached Amla and Tahir immediately after the incident happened and requested them to help out in containing the situation.

A team source confirmed Inzamam’s involvement in diffusing the crisis.

“These three played a big role in convincing the South African team not to make an official protest to the match referee over Sarfaraz’s comments. If the South Africans had lodged a report the Pakistan captain would have faced a longer ban,” the source said.

Inzamam and the PCB directed Sarfraz to immediately issue a public apology.

Inzamam, Amla and Tahir arranged the meeting between Sarfraz and Phehlukwayo in which the Pakistan skipper extended his apologies and insisted it was unintentional. “The trio also convinced the South African management not to lodge a protest with the match referee which could have had serious repercussions for Sarfaraz,” the source said.