Desperate Aussies fast-track Pakistan asylum-seeker Ahmed to play in the Ashes

In their increasingly desperate search for a successor to Shane Warne, Australia are trying to fast-track the passport application of a former asylum-seeker from the Pakistan village where Osama Bin Laden was killed.

Fawad Ahmed has been hailed as the best leg-spinner to play first-class cricket since Warne, after impressing in his short stint in  Australian domestic cricket since fleeing Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was hiding. He had suffered death threats because of his work coaching women’s cricket.

But, under residency rules, he will not qualify to play in the Ashes until the last Test of this summer, and with the Aussies still looking for the new Warne after trying no fewer than 12 spinners since his retirement, they are now lobbying their government to give the 31-year-old Fawad a passport as soon as possible to make him eligible for the Test team.

Saviour? Fawad Ahmed playing for Australian domestic side Victoria
Fawad Ahmed

Saviour? Fawad Ahmed plays for Australian side Victoria as well as Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash

Left: Ahmed was accused of promoting Western values in Pakistan by coaching cricket

Left: Ahmed was accused of promoting Western values in Pakistan by coaching cricket

Little-known Fawad, who has played just 11 first-class games, insists playing in the Ashes would be a ‘dream come true’, even though he said his ‘heart and mind is always with Pakistan’.

‘Pakistan is my country,’ he added. ‘But it simply wasn’t safe for me there because I was accused of  promoting Western values by coaching cricket. I was helping to promote the education of women and girls and coaching women’s cricket, which wasn’t a popular thing to do. 

‘I would love to play for Pakistan but there is no going back. I had to leave.

‘If it’s my fate, it will be a source of great happiness for me to play in back-to-back Ashes series. The Ashes are a true test of a player’s ability and the level of competition is very high. A lot of people get involved, the whole nation and the media focus on it a lot. If I manage to become part of the Ashes team, nothing would make me happier. It would be a dream come true for me.’

Impossible to replace: Australia have tried 12 spinners since Shane Warne retired

Impossible to replace: Australia have tried 12 spinners since Shane Warne retired

Fawad, who was granted permanent residency on January 29 after arriving in Australia in 2010, took  7-162 on his Victoria Bushrangers Sheffield Shield debut last week, prompting his captain, Cameron White, to say: ‘When he’s qualified, he’ll play for Australia pretty quickly, I’d imagine. He’s one of the better leg-spinners, if not the best, I’ve seen in first-class cricket outside Stuart MacGill and Shane Warne.’

As it stands, Fawad will qualify for Australia on residency grounds on August 18 — three days before the final Ashes Test in England — but with his case now on the political radar, a passport could be granted much sooner. Federal Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has taken up the case, with Cricket  Australia lobbying on his behalf.

One stumbling block could come from his initial declaration that he was born on February 5, 1980, making him 33, before back-tracking by insisting his birthday was actually two years later.

Graeme Swann
Monty Panesar

Strong: England's spin department is a long way ahead of Australia's with Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar

‘I had given the original documents to Cricket Australia, but there  were errors in the dates,’ he told ‘They are now being changed. I have provided the documents to Cricket Australia via the government to show that my correct date of birth is February 5, 1982.’

Assuming the administrative blunder does not count against him, it would complete one of the most remarkable journeys to the Test arena in history. As current Baggy Green spinners Nathan Lyon and Xavier Doherty continue to toil in India, along with the rest of the Australia team, who struggled to 236 for nine declared on the first day of the second Test in Hyderabad yesterday, Fawad’s emergence also highlights a startling lack of quality in Australia’s spin department.

‘I’ve met Shane Warne a couple of times and bowled with him in the nets at the MCG last year,’ said Fawad. ‘He gave me plenty of advice. Any cricketer’s dream is to  play international cricket and, hopefully, my dream will be fulfilled.  I have high hopes that this will happen one day.’


Australia fast-track Pakistan asylum-seeker Fawad Ahmed to play in the Ashes - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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