Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed yesterday had his bid for Australian citizenship accepted, making him eligible to play in the upcoming Ashes series against England.
The former refugee, 31, played for Australia A last month in England and selector John Inverarity has indicated he will be considered for the Ashes squad.
“It is a dream moment for me,” Ahmed said.
“I haven’t spoken to [my family] about today, but they’re really hopeful and they’re happy for me. I miss them a lot on this occasion, but I’m really pleased to be a citizen now,” he added.
Ahmed described his experience as “unbelievable.”
“The last four years here in Australia, I couldn’t wait to be a citizen, especially in the field of cricket,” he told reporters.
“I want to give back something to this country. I will try my best to be a good citizen and I will do my best for this country,” he added.
Ahmed returned from England last month after the Australian government moved amendments to the Citizenship Act through the upper house of parliament to help fast-track his application.
The legislation allows the immigration minister to apply shorter residential requirements on some citizenship applicants, such as elite athletes with the potential to represent Australia, as in Ahmed’s case.
Former Australian immigration minister Brendan O’Connor, who handled Ahmed’s case, said the last remaining formality was for the cricketer to attend a citizenship ceremony.
Ahmed thanked the government for its support.
“I was happy from last year when I got my residency, but it was still stressful because I wasn’t officially a citizen,” he said.
“It was a long journey ... thanks to minister ... and the whole government of Australia, they really helped me. It was not an easy job to change the law,” he added.
Ahmed has been named in the Australia A squad for a tour of Africa beginning later this month.
The opening Test of the five-match Ashes series starts in Nottingham on Wednesday next week, with Nathan Lyon the only spin bowler in Australia’s 16-man squad.
“If they definitely select me, it will be an honor to represent Australia in the Ashes or maybe other tournaments,” Ahmed said.