Thu, Jul 04, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Gooch surprised by Australia’s Ahmed call-up for Ashes

AFP, LONDON

England great Graham Gooch expressed surprise on Tuesday that Australia were prepared to pick Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed.

Leg-spinner Ahmed, 31, a former refugee, had his bid for Australian citizenship accepted earlier on Tuesday, making him eligible to play in the forthcoming Ashes series in England.

“It’s certainly not been their preferred modus operandi in the past, but if someone has qualified to live in the country and gets all the stamps in their passport, a naturalized Australian, he becomes just another opponent,” former England captain Gooch told the BBC on Tuesday.

“We’ll obviously have tabs on him to see what he does and how he performs, because if he does make an appearance in the series we need to be aware of that,” added Gooch, one of England’s best openers and now the team’s batting coach.

Australia have generally prided themselves on fielding only “home-grown” players for their national side.

Sections of their media have been scornful of England’s tendency to pick South Africa-born batsmen, such as Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Nick Compton, wicketkeeper Matt Prior and retired former captain Andrew Strauss, even if the latter two learned their cricket in England.

Ahmed played for Australia A in England last month and national selector John Inverarity has indicated he will be considered as an addition to Australia’s Ashes squad.

The bowler returned to Australia from England last month after the Australian government moved amendments to the Citizenship Act through the upper house of parliament to help fast-track Ahmed’s application.

Australia will begin their bid to regain the Ashes when the first of a five-match Test series starts at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, England, on Wednesday.

At present, off-break bowler Nathan Lyon is the leading specialist spinner in an Australia squad boosted to 18 by the inclusion of leg-spinning all-rounder Steven Smith as cover for captain Michael Clarke, while left-armer Ashton Agar is with the tourists until at least the second Test as a “development player.”

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