“He is a fine young man who has handled himself extremely well.” -Photo by AFP
LONDON: John Inverarity, Australia's chairman of selectors, indicated Monday that Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed could yet be called into the Ashes squad.
The chances of Ahmed, who took one for 25 in six overs on Monday in Australia A's 93-run win over Ireland in Belfast, featuring in the Ashes improved dramatically when a bill to amend the Citizenship Act, which will help fast-track his application, passed through Australia's lower house of parliament earlier this month.
Cricket Australia said that if the bill became law, and Ahmed obtains citizenship and an Australian passport, he will immediately be available for the national side.
Australia currently have only one specialist spinner in their Ashes squad in off-break bowler Nathan Lyon.
Ahmed played three Sheffield Shield games for Victoria late last season and took 16 wickets at 28.37, bringing him to the notice of Australian selectors.
The 31-year-old, who fled Pakistan claiming persecution, has also won plaudits from retired Australia leg-spin great Shane Warne.
“It is likely that his passport will be through in time for him to be considered for the squad,” Inverarity told BBC Radio's Test Match Special on Monday.
“Then he will be considered for selection.
“He is a very interesting story. He is a young man who felt he was being persecuted in Pakistan and sought refuge in Australia.
“He came and joined an ethnic community there, played some cricket at a southern district level, was noticed as a good leg-spinner, then he went down to state practice and its gone from there.”
Inverarity added: “He is a fine young man who has handled himself extremely well so it's a very interesting story, especially in the diversity context so we will just have to wait and see what happens. He is a very good leg-spin bowler.”
Australian cricket has faced accusations of insularity in the past but Inverarity said the prospect of Ahmed playing in the Ashes had been broadly welcomed by the country's cricket fans.
“I think the response (of the Australian public) has been overwhelmingly positive,” the 69-year-old insisted.
“The vast majority are very supportive of it.
“It's important for our Australian community that there is that sort of integration.
“He has got on well with the Victoria players, he has arrived with the Australia A and he has fitted in well. He is a lovely lad.”
Inverarity said Ahmed was likely to remain with Australia A for their next game against Gloucestershire on Friday and could even be called up for the full side's Ashes warm-up games against Somerset and Worcestershire.
However, he played down talk of Ahmed featuring in next month's first Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, the opening match of Australia's bid to regain the Ashes from England, saying this would subject him to “extraordinary” pressure.
“It's going to be very difficult for him,” Inverarity said.
“If we select him for the Test team and he plays, with his unusual circumstances, the pressure on him will be extraordinary.
“I think as a unit we need to protect him as much as we can from those distractions.”