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Fawad Ahmed: From Pakistan to Trent Bridge, via the MCG

Fawad Ahmed has been touted as a worthy answer to Australia’s cricketing woes, with the Federal Government fast-tracking his Australian citizenship. Joel Clarke looks at his story. 

It was Canberra, of all places, on January 29 this year that Australia got its first glimpse of a Pakistani born refugee who now calls Australia home.

Fawad Ahmed was selected for the Prime Minister’s XI and eagerly awaited until night settled and the lights turned on for his time to shine.

What we saw was the glimpse of the past and a flickering of the future.

When I say past, I don’t mean a blonde headed, slightly overweight man by the name of Shane Warne. I do however mean a leg spinner with good control and variation. When I say future, I mean the next Australian leg-spinner to don the baggy green and give all cricket lovers a newfound love for the game.

In the 10 overs bowled by Ahmed, his figures of 1/61 didn’t represent the talent. However we didn’t have to wait long.

After being given his first 1st class debut for Victoria against Queensland, he claimed figures of 7/162. He bowled Victoria to victory, rare for a spinner to do in the 1st class scene.

In the three matches he has played for Victoria, he has taken 16 wickets.

In those three matches, the reviews and praise he received from opposition players is a testament to the skill he displays. Most, if not all, claim that Ahmed is Australia’s premier spinner.

Having honed his skills over many years, it is no surprise as to why Ahmed can be the hope that Australian cricket needs. Since the retirement of Warne, no spinner has captivated the hearts and minds of the Australian cricket public.

Nathan Lyon, another rags to riches story in his own right, has never been able to do what all great spinners do and that is bowl their team to victory on the final day of a test match.

On a turning Adelaide wicket against South Africa, his moment to shine came and went, not for a lack of trying and a hint of bad luck.

With the biggest series, the Ashes, just over a month away, the hopes of Australian cricket lie with Michael Clarke’s batting and his dodgy back, our pace attack and the missing piece of the puzzle in a leg spin bowler.

It was 20 years ago last Tuesday that Shane Warne bowled the “ball of the century” to Mike Gatting. For 14 years, it tormented English batsmen and made English spectators wonder when it would all end. What it did was reinvigorate the art of leg spin bowling.

For 10 tests, history will be on the line and just maybe, a new chapter in Ashes folklore will be written. For all of England’s rash confidence, Australia too will be given a little boost it needed.

The story of Fawad Ahmed is one that a year ago seemed unlikely. For he was yet to be an Australian citizen. But when the papers were signed and sealed and he boarded the plane to England, the fight to retain the urn just received the timely boost it so desperately needed.

So we now wait, for on July 10 when the first test at Trent Bridge comes upon us, we may have a moment that will be talked about like the one that occured 20 years ago.

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