Sarfraz Ahmed will continue as captain of Pakistan to 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 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, playing 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, and publicly. Sarfraz added he won’t 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.

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