Shane Warne believes “heroic” and “courageous” Pakistani-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed can become an unlikely Ashes hero for Australia in England later this year.
Former refugee Ahmed, 31, will be eligible if minor changes to Australia’s citizenship legislation pass through parliament in the next few weeks, having fled his native Pakistan in 2010.
Australia have only one spinner in their 16-man squad in Nathan Lyon, but there are many who believe Ahmed could be of more use to Michael Clarke’s men when they try to regain the Ashes from England in a series starting next month.
“I think for him the whole story of his is a very courageous one,” Australia great Warne told BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday.
“He’s come to Australia for a better life. What he has done is an interesting story,” added legendary leg-spinner Warne, who took 708 Test wickets. “I wish him all the best and I really hope all the documentation goes through because I think he could be a real surprise element for Australia.”
“He’s got that surprise element and he doesn’t get flustered about anything. I think he could be very good for Australia,” Warne said.
Ahmed has only played three first-class matches for Victoria, Warne’s home state, since arriving in Australia, but has taken 16 wickets in that time.
“He’s got a mature head on his shoulders,” an admiring Warne said. “He’s been through hell basically; he’s been through a tough time. He has been a net bowler for the Victorian team and just bowled and bowled in the nets. He’s an excellent bowler. On debut he got five-for. He can really bowl. His story is courageous and heroic, actually.”
Warne believes Ahmed could be the missing piece of the jigsaw when it comes to Australia’s chances of regaining the Ashes urn.
“The quick bowling will be good, but the spin is lacking. Any time you can get a good leg-spinner in it’s good,” Warne said on the 20th anniversary of his “ball of the century,” with which he dismissed Mike Gatting in an Ashes Test at Manchester’s Old Trafford and so made his reputation as an international bowler.
“I think if anyone underestimates Australia in the Ashes they do at their own peril, because I think they have the side there that could surprise England,” Warne said.