Sarfraz Ahmed to captain Pakistan at World Cup despite recent ban for racial taunt

Sarfraz was banned for a racial taunt directed towards South Africa all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Sarfraz Ahmed to captain Pakistan at World Cup despite recent ban for racial taunt

  • PCB chief Ehsan Mani backs underwire skipper to lead side for next few months.
  • Sarfraz has led Pakistan to 21 victories in 35 ODIs, including winning the Champions Trophy in 2017 in England.

LAHORE: Sarfraz Ahmed will remain captain of Pakistan for the Cricket World Cup despite being banned for a racial taunt last month.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) 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, the 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 apologized to Phehlukwayo both privately and publicly. Sarfraz added he will not stop talking behind the wickets, and Mani criticized 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 its 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.”
After being banned, Sarfraz returned home and Shoaib Malik was named as the stand-in captain for the last two one-dayers and the three-match T20 series. Pakistan lost the ODI series 3-2, and has lost the T20 series 2-0. The third and last match is on Wednesday.
Pakistan has limited-overs series against Australia and England in the lead-up to the Cricket World Cup in May in England and Wales.
Pakistan last won the Cricket World Cup in 1992 under Imran Khan, now the country’s prime minister.


Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

Updated 20 May 2019
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Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

  • Milwaukee’s MVP finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggles to just 12 points
  • He then fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period

LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard scored eight of his 36 points in the second overtime period Sunday to lead the Toronto Raptors to a gritty 118-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The Raptors, who dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Milwaukee, clawed their way back to 2-1 in front of home fans and will try to level the set when they host game four on Tuesday.
Pascal Siakam scored 25 points and Spanish center Marc Gasol added 16 for the Raptors, who got off to a quick start and led much of the night but had to battle to put the Bucks away.
“We just played a lot tougher,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We were up guarding, we were physical. We were ready to play tonight.”
Milwaukee’s Most Valuable Player finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled to just 12 points on five-of-16 shooting.
Antetokounmpo’s 23 rebounds helped the Bucks stay in touch, but he didn’t reach double figures in points until the middle of the fourth quarter and he produced eight of the Bucks’ 20 turnovers.
Antetokounmpo fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period.
Moments later the Bucks managed to edge ahead 105-103 — taking the lead for the first time since Antetokounmpo scored the game’s opening basket — but Leonard and the Raptors roared back.
Leonard’s steal and dunk put Toronto ahead 112-109 and his driving bank shot gave Toronto a 114-110 lead with 32.4 seconds remaining.
Leonard played a key role in limiting Antetokounmpo and Nurse said his defensive play was “probably the biggest key of the game.”
“Not only did he just play good, but he made some huge plays with some steals and rip-aways and break aways,” Nurse said.
“Offense was hard to come by there for both teams for a while and any time you can get a steal and a break out it’s a huge momentum play.”
Toronto had a chance to win it in regulation, but they let a 96-91 lead slip away in the final 1:13 of the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee guard Khris Middleton’s putback basket from his own miss with 2.2 seconds left in regulation forced overtime.
The Raptors led 103-99 with 1:29 remaining in the first extra session.
But Malcolm Brogdon floated in a shot and George Hill drained two free throws to tie it before Leonard’s jump shot fell short.
The Raptors overcame a slow night from Kyle Lowry, who scored 11 points before fouling out with 6:12 left in the fourth.
Although Leonard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, some grimaces from the Raptors star sparked concerns he might be injured.
“I’m feeling all right,” he said. “This is playoff basketball. Everybody’s hurting, you just have to keep fighting.”
Hill led the Bucks with 24 points and fellow reserve Brogdon added 20. Center Brook Lopez led the Bucks starters with 16 points.
“I feel like we gave ourselves several chances,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We weren’t able to get over the hump.
“When you have opportunities you’ve got to make them and we didn’t quite make enough of our good ones. I think we’ll be better in game four, Giannis, everybody.”