Thu, Mar 07, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Pakistani asylumseeker eyes playing in Ashes series

AFP, SYDNEY

Pakistani asylumseeker Fawad Ahmed, who was granted a permanent Australian 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 today.

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 Web site yesterday.

“Everything we’ve seen, I think 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,” he said.

Ahmed left his home in the border region near Afghanistan to travel 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 last year and quickly established his credentials at the Melbourne Renegades in the Twenty20 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 that these criteria will be fulfilled in August, toward the end of the Ashes series in England.

The Ashes return series is in Australia later in the year.

“At the moment I’m concentrating on Shield cricket — trying to perform better and better in every single game,” Ahmed said yesterday.

“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,” Ahmed said.

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