SYDNEY: Pakistani asylum-seeker Fawad Ahmed, who was granted a permanent Australia visa in November, wants to play in the Ashes against England, and his state coach believes he is good enough.
The 33-year-old leg-spinner took seven wickets on his Sheffield Shield debut for Victoria two weeks ago and will have another chance to shine against New South Wales at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from Thursday.
Australia’s spinners have been struggling in recent Tests and Victoria coach Greg Shipperd is certain Ahmed has the skills to play at Test level.
“Anyone playing first-class cricket potentially has what it takes to play at the next level,” Shipperd said on the Cricket Australia website Wednesday.
“Everything we’ve seen, I think everything the selectors in Victoria and the Australian selectors that have seen him in their own training environment are very excited about his prospects going forward.
“It is about performance and consistency in performance, but I’m confident he certainly has the skill set to play at the next level.”
Ahmed left his home in the border region near Afghanistan to come to Australia on a short-stay visa in 2010, claiming he was targeted by Muslim extremists because of the perception that cricket promotes Western values.
He was granted a permanent visa to stay in November and quickly established his credentials at the Melbourne Renegades in the T20 Big Bash League and with an appearance for the Prime Minister’s XI against the West Indies in January.
He is eligible to play for Australia as soon as he is granted citizenship, although under International Cricket Council guidelines he can also play for his adopted country once he has lived at least half of four consecutive years there.
The ICC has determined this criteria will be fulfilled in August this year, toward the end of the the Ashes series in England. Another Ashes series is in Australia later in the year.
Ahmed said he was focusing only on the Sheffield Shield at the moment, but admitted playing for Australia was his dream.
“At the moment I’m concentrating on Shield cricket — trying to perform better and better in every single game,” he told reporters Wednesday.
“Hopefully I will pick myself to be part of the team. I will try my best to perform here first and see if I get my opportunity… I will do my best.
“Playing Test cricket is the dream for any single cricketer — very, very exciting,” he added.
“Like a dream, especially playing for Australia in an Ashes against England. That would be a dream for me and would be amazing. I just only can imagine.”