Sarfraz hopes ban won't stop from him leading Pakistan in World Cup

Sarfraz Ahmed. (AFP/File)
Updated 03 February 2019

Sarfraz hopes ban won't stop from him leading Pakistan in World Cup

  • He was banned for four matches for his behind-the-stump remarks for S. African cricketer
  • PCB chairman criticized ICC for penalizing Sarfraz after he "had cleared the air."

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's banned captain Sarfraz Ahmed hopes his four-match suspension will not deny him the opportunity to lead his country in the World Cup in England later this year.
"The decision is with the Pakistan Cricket Board, but I have got positive vibes about it that I will be the captain for the World Cup," Sarfraz told reporters in the southern port city of Karachi on Sunday.
The PCB has a policy of naming the captain on a series to series basis.
Sarfraz witnessed the third and final Twenty20 match between Pakistan's women and the West Indies as the home team won it by 12 runs, but lost the series 2-1.
Sarfraz has successfully led the world's No. 1-ranked Pakistan team in the Twenty20 format since being named captain in 2016. He also captained Pakistan to a historic victory in the Champions Trophy in England in 2017 when Pakistan was ranked at No. 8 in the eight-team event.
Last month, the ICC suspended Sarfraz for four matches under its anti-racism code for a an on-field taunt aimed at South Africa allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo.
He returned home and the PCB handed over the captaincy to Shoaib Malik for the two one-day internationals and three-match Twenty20 series.
In the incident, Sarfraz, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, 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 made a public apology and also apologized in person to Phehlukwayo ahead of the third ODI last week. But the ICC still found him guilty and banned him for the last two one-day games and the first two T20s.
PCB chairman Ehsan Mani reportedly criticized the ICC for handing Sarfraz the punishment after the cricket board and the Pakistan captain "had cleared the air."
Sarfraz said the word "black" was played up in the media while Phehlukwayo had reservations about the words used by the Pakistan captain about his mother.
"Only one word was played up in the media," Sarfraz said.
"He (Phehlukwayo) told me that I used wrong words about his mother, but I told him that being a Muslim we believe that whatever success we achieve it's because of our mother's prayers and that I did not use the words in the wrong context."
Sarfraz said that even the manager of the South Africa team, who was present at the time, endorsed his explanation to Phehlukwayo.
Sarfraz has been quite vocal behind the stumps, which sometimes attracts criticism.
But Sarfraz said he won't change.
"My nature won't ever change and all those who have covered me since I played at club level know it very well," Sarfraz said. "I do the captaincy like that, I talk a lot behind the stumps."
Pakistan has won two major ICC tournaments — the 1992 World Cup and the 2017 Champions Trophy — during Muslims' fasting month of Ramadan.
This year too, the World Cup will start during Ramadan and Sarfraz said it could bode well for Pakistan again.
"Ramadan is always good for the Pakistan team whether it's 1992 World Cup or the Champions Trophy," he said with a smile.


Thiem into ATP Finals semis as Djokovic and Federer face shootout

Updated 13 November 2019

Thiem into ATP Finals semis as Djokovic and Federer face shootout

  • Austrian fifth seed took fight to the world No. 2, recovering from losing the first set to triumph

LONDON: Dominic Thiem produced a scintillating display of attacking tennis to beat Novak Djokovic and qualify for the last four at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, leaving the Serbian facing a shootout against Roger Federer.

In the standout match so far at London’s O2 Arena, the Austrian fifth seed took the fight to the world No. 2, recovering from losing the first set to triumph 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)

Earlier, Federer put himself back in the mix at the end-of-season event with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 win against Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini in their round-robin clash.

Federer and Djokovic will face off on Thursday in a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final to determine who else will progress from Group Bjorn Borg.

Thiem was forced to play high-stakes tennis against the 16-time Grand Slam winner, taking the breath away with some of his inside-out forehands and single-handed backhands

Forced to play at his limit, he hit 50 winners compared with Djokovic’s tally of 27 but also racked up 44 unforced errors.

“This was really one of these special matches, what I’ve practiced all my life for, all my childhood for,” Thiem said.

“Really epic one in an amazing atmosphere, beating a legend of our game. And also I’ve qualified for the semifinals, which is the best.

“Coming back from 1-4 (down in the deciding tie-break) was a little bit of luck, but it was an unbelievable match and one I’ll never forget. Novak is the best player in the world and I had to do something special.”

In a captivating first set the players swapped a break apiece but Djokovic, a five-time ATP Finals champion, edged the tie-break.

Undaunted, Thiem broke his opponent at the first opportunity in the second set and, with Djokovic’s error count climbing, went on to level the match.

Thiem also drew first blood in the decider but cracked in the sixth game as Djokovic levelled the match and appeared to have engineered a switch in momentum.

The Austrian successfully challenged at 30-30 in the 10th game after his forehand was ruled out, preventing a match point for Djokovic and he toughed it out to level at 5-5.

He then broke Djokovic to love to earn a chance to serve for the match but stumbled and the decider went to a tie-break.

Still the drama was not finished. Thiem slipped to 4-1 down but battled back to win it on his second match point when Djokovic dumped a forehand into the net.

Third seed Federer had put himself under the cosh by losing his opening round-robin match to Thiem. The six-time champion was not at his fluent best on Tuesday but ultimately had too much for his Italian opponent.

The Swiss upped his game to take the first set tie-break comfortably and broke immediately at the start of the second set to leave the big-serving Berrettini with too much to do.

Federer was asked after his win against Berrettini whether his defeat to Djokovic at Wimbledon had left emotional or mental scars.

“We’ll find out, but I think it’s all flushed away from my side,” said the Swiss.

“A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.”

Djokovic is hunting a sixth ATP Finals title to pull level with Federer’s record and is also seeking to pip Rafael Nadal to the year-end number one ranking.

On Monday, top seed Nadal lost his opener in Group Andre Agassi to defending champion Alexander Zverev while Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Daniil Medvedev.