Despite racism row, Sarfraz Ahmed will be Pakistan’s captain at World Cup

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Islamabad: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Eshan Mani rubbished rumours of a change in captaincy for Pakistan in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup and said Sarfraz Ahmed will be leading the team at the quadrennial cricket tournament in England later this year.

Sarfraz Ahmed was handed a four-match ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC) over his racist jibe against Andile Phehlukwayo during an ODI series against South Africa last month. Sarfraz was asked to return home by the PCB midway during the ongoing tour and Shoaib Malik was appointed as the interim captain of the Pakistan cricket team.

Sarfraz has served the four-match ban and will return to lead Pakistan for the limited-over series vs Australia in the United Arab Emirates in late March and early April, Mani confirmed.

“There should be no doubt that Sarfraz is the Pakistan cricket team’s captain. He will lead the team in the series against Australia and also in the World Cup,” Mani told the media on Tuesday.

The PCB chairman added: “I was always clear in my mind that Sarfaraz would be the captain. Sarfraz has been an integral part of Pakistan’s World Cup preparations. He has proved to be a good strategist, leader and performer.

“He led Pakistan to Champions Trophy 2017 title as well as to top of the International Cricket Council’s Twenty20 International rankings.

“Sarfraz has reiterated his commitment to the Pakistan cricket team as well as his availability and enthusiasm to captain the team at the World Cup. There is only one captain of the Pakistan cricket team and it will remain so.”

Meanwhile, Sarfraz expressed confidence that Pakistan will be able to perform to the best of their abilities at the World Cup, starting May 30.

“I feel proud to be joining the list of cricketers that led the Pakistan cricket team into world cups in the past. We will try our best to perform well there,” Sarfraz, who accompanied Mani to the media interaction, said.

Responding to the rumours of a change in captaincy, Sarfraz added: “Since I started captaining the team, I did not think so far ahead into the future and worry about if I would be the team’s captain in a year’s time or not. I focused on my responsibilities on a series-to-series basis and will continue to do so.”

I am convinced we are in a good shape for the World Cup. We have top quality talent and match-winners with committed support staff in the dressing room,” he said when asked about how he felt going into the upcoming international showdown.

In the lead up to the World Cup, Pakistan will play five ODIs each against Australia and England, which will also allow us the opportunity to further fine-tune our preparations. I am sure we’ll prove ourselves at the World Cup.

Shoaib Malik, meanwhile, will lead Pakistan in the final T20I of the ongoing three-match series against South Africa in Centurion on Wednesday. The hosts have already sealed an unbeatable 2-0 lead after winning the first two matches.

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