Cricket

Fawad Ahmed may get Ashes opportunity

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Fawad Ahmed may get Ashes chance (©GettyImages)
Fawad Ahmed may get Ashes chance (©GettyImages).

Cricket Australia is hoping that the Australian Government will fast-track legislation that would allow promising Leg spinner Fawad Ahmed to bowl for Australia against England in the upcoming Ashes series.

A slight amendment to the Citizenship Act would allow for the Pakistani refugee to apply for a passport which would enable him to represent his adopted nation in cricket's oldest and most prestigious rivalry this English summer. 

Australia chairman of selectors John Inverarity was glowing in his praise of the 31-year-old Ahmed when the touring party was announced earlier in the month in Sydney, even though the yet to be naturalised Ahmed was not chosen in the initial 16 man touring party.

Inverarity told The Australian: "Fawad Ahmed, those of us who have seen him bowl have been very impressed with him," he said.

The one issue that does remain would be whether there would be time to allow the legislation to pass through parliament, as Australia is heading toward an election and the parliament only has a few sitting weeks left before the election.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor confirmed this, saying: "There are only four sitting weeks before the election and there are a lot of pieces of legislation that our office and other offices want to get through."

There are plans afoot for Ahmed to be included against England A for Australia A in the last game of the tour just prior to the main Ashes series and provided the spinner performs he is highly likely to be included in the First Test squad for Trent Bridge on July 14.

Ahmed has continually impressed those in the position to select him for the tour as he continues to train impressively at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane as the squad prepares to leave for the Champions Trophy followed by the Ashes.

Inverarity has been quoted as saying: "He's a very good leg spinner and yes he does remain in contention. We've selected 16 players and we state now that should the need arise we will add to the squad. We don't know when he's going to become eligible, but there's always that possibility."

The Pakistan-born spinner is rated as the best spin bowler in the country by a number of top quality coaches and boasts 16 wickets at an average of 28 from three Shield matches since making his debut for Victoria after he was granted permanent Australian Residency.

Some of Ahmed's scalps in Shield cricket include Queenslanders Peter Forrest and James Hopes who have represented Australia at One Day International level and current Australia T20 skipper George Bailey.

His state captain and former Australia representative Cameron White has referred to Ahmed as the best leg spinner he has seen outside of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill.

Australia feels that England have a severe weakness against leg-spin bowling which is only enhancing the claims of Ahmed.

Shane Warne continually terrorised English batsmen over the course of his cricket career, even taking a series high 40 wickets in 2005 despite Australia going on to lose the series.

MacGill also famously took 12 wickets in a match against England in Sydney in the 1999  series.

One player who may be worried about the inclusion of Ahmed is Australia's incumbent spinner Nathan Lyon.

Lyon has 76 wickets in 22 Test matches but the consensus is he will struggle to hold his place if Ahmed becomes eligible prior to the commencement of the Ashes series.

This would not be the first time that the Australian Parliament has fast-tracked the citizenship of sportspeople to allow them to represent Australia at the highest level.

In 2009, Tennis players Anastasia Rodionova and Jarmila Gajdosova, origianlly from eastern Europe had their citizenships fast-tracked to allow them to compete for Australia in the FedCup.

If Ahmed was included for the Ashes it would just provide another intriguing sub-plot for what is undoubtedly the most anticipated cricketing contest since the England came to Australia and emerged victorious 3-1 back in 2010/11 Australian summer.

 

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