By BV Swagath
Australia Cricket will see a second Pakistan-born player in its team after Usman Khawaja in leg spinner Fawad Ahmed. The 31-year-old leggie has been picked in the 18-man Australia squad for the 5-match ODI Series in England and the Only ODI in Scotland.
Fawad Ahmed had represented Abbottabad and the Pakistan Customs in the Pakistani Domestic Circuit having made his first-class debut way back in 2005. The leggie has hardly any matches to his credit and has certainly bagged a lottery by seeking asylum in Australia.
The 31-year-old had left Pakistan in 2010 and had asked for refugee status in Australia claiming that he was facing threat from terrorists who were preventing him from playing and coaching cricket. Fawad hails from the north-west Pakistan region which was the epicenter of the war against the Terrorists. The leg-spinner arrived in Australia with just 10 first-class games to his credit but has soon impressed with his talent with the Melbourne Renegades and Victoria.
Ahmed is said to be having a bowling action similar to India’s great leg-spinner Anil Kumble and that he can extract far more turn than the latter. Damien Martyn, former Aussie batsman, had gone on to say that Fawad was the best leg-spinner after Shane Warne. With Australia having a dearth of great spinning talents after the exit of Warne, Fawad Ahmed in just two years has been granted Australian permanent resident status to represent the national team.
The other notable inclusions in the Australia side are fast bowler Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh.
Commenting on the squad, National Selector John Inverarity according to Cricket Australia Website said: “The NSP today announced an 18-man squad for the two T20s against England, the ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh and the five ODIs against England to be played from 29 August to 16 September. The NSP will reduce the squad, probably to 15, after the T20 matches.
“Fawad Ahmed gets his opportunity as the squad’s lead spinner. He replaces Xavier Doherty who had that role in the ICC Champions Trophy played in June. While Xavier will be disappointed, he remains in strong contention for selection for the Tour of India in October. Fawad has been a consistent wicket-taker on the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa. He is a mature and very good leg-spin bowler and the NSP is keen to see how he fares in international competition.
“Steve Smith has replaced Mitchell Marsh from the squad that represented Australia in the ICC Champions Trophy. Steve is a talented young stroke-maker who is steadily gaining confidence and has been impressive at times during the Ashes Series and Australia A tour that preceded it. Mitchell is still only 21 years of age and is a player who remains of high interest.
“Aaron Finch played five consecutive ODIs last summer against the West Indies. Since then he has captained Australia A against the England Lions in February and more recently against South Africa A, Zimbabwe and India A in Africa. He has played and captained with considerable success and the NSP looks forward to him continuing his form in England.
“Shaun Marsh’s limited overs form has been very good for some time. He sealed his selection in this squad when he batted through the innings scoring a masterful 136 not out to guide Australia A to victory against South Africa A recently.
Australia Squad: Michael Clarke (ODI Captain), George Bailey (T20I Captain), Fawad Ahmed, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, Matthew Wade (WK), David Warner, Shane Watson
“Josh Hazlewood has been performing impressively with Australia A recently and thoroughly deserves the opportunity. Josh made his ODI debut for Australia against England in 2010 as a 19-year-old and now, three years on, he is a stronger and better bowler.
“We believe the squad is also a very good fielding unit with David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Steve Smith being a brilliant and eye-catching quartet within the wider squad.
"While he hasn't been selected in this squad, the NSP also notes the strong performances of Nic Maddinson in recent months for Australia A. We look forward to him continuing to build on that good form and pressing his claims for higher honours in the future.
“The 2014 ICC World Twenty20 is less than 12 months away and the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup around 18 months away so every limited overs game between now and then will be an important opportunity for those players selected to press their claims.
“While those two tournaments may seem distant to cricket fans, the NSP has been planning for these tournaments for some time.”