Fawad Ahmed on Ashes fast-track alert as Parliament moves for citizenship law changes
Law changes could see Fawad Ahmed apply for an Australian passport in time to make the Ashes tour to England.Getty Images: Morne de Klerk
The Federal Government’s move to amend the nation’s citizenship laws looks set to sail through Parliament, paving the way for leg spinner Fawad Ahmed to apply for an Australian passport.
Chief Australian selector John Inverarity has left open the possibility that Ahmed could be included in the Ashes squad, with speculation rife the Pakistan-born tweaker could replace Nathan Lyon, who was dropped and then recalled during Australia’s 4-0 thrashing in India.
Australia’s lack of depth in the spin department has been a constant issue since Shane Warne’s retirement, a problem highlighted during the India tour.
Australian captain Michael Clarke appeared to hose down the chances of Ahmed replacing Lyon earlier this week.
“Well the speculators aren’t the selectors,” Clarke said.
“We’ve picked 16 and there could be opportunities for other guys. That could be one player, that could be five players.”
But there is little doubt Ahmed is in the selectors’ sights as the Federal Government looks to pass amendments to the Citizenship Act.
Under International Cricket Council rules, Ahmed would be eligible to play for Australia once he has spent four years in the country.
Ahmed has nearly done that and will become eligible in August, at the end of Australia’s Ashes tour of England.
But if he was allowed to apply for a passport, Ahmed could be in England on June 21, when the Australia A touring party begins the last of its three matches against Gloucestershire.
Debate over law changes set to continue
Immigration and Citizenship Minister Brendan O’Connor’s moved an amendment this morning which will enable citizenship to be fast-tracked in special circumstances.
The measure will give the minister personal power to apply shorter residential requirements on some citizenship applicants, including elite athletes.
Generally, it would cover people who required Australian citizenship to engage in activity of benefit to Australia but did not meet the normal residential requirements.
O’Connor said the measure would give the minister discretion to “provide a pathway to citizenship to a very small number of people in very exceptional circumstances, where their becoming a citizen would be of benefit to Australia”.
“Australia should be proud to call these people their own,” he said.
But Ahmed’s case is complicated; the Government already has a packed legislative agenda and only wanted to push for the changes if it had bi-partisan support.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the Coalition helped write the bill and would like to see it pass quickly.
“One of the points we strongly made was this had to go beyond the sporting field,” Morrison said.
Some of the federal independent MPs have told the ABC they are cynical about the legislation, but the Government and Cricket Australia (CA) hope it will pass quickly.
The legislation is not likely to be debated until next week, but CA spokesman Phillip Pope says it will be a great success story if Ahmed is eventually picked.
“He’d be able to demonstrate that everybody that comes to Australia can have the ability to maybe one day represent their country,” he said.
“At the moment, Fawad’s not eligible for consideration for selection. So, those in Canberra, in particular the Minister for Immigration and his department, would need to take a view on how he might become a citizen.”
Ahmed lauded as best since Shane Warne
PHOTO: Best since Shane Warne? Fawad Ahmed has been hailed by his Victoria team-mates. (Dave Hunt: AAP Image)
The refugee leg spinner rose to prominence in February when, on Sheffield Shield debut, he took match figures of 7 for 162 for the Bushrangers against Queensland at the MCG.
Victoria captain Cameron White lauded Ahmed’s ability, endorsing him for an eventual Baggy Green cap.
“When he’s qualified, he’ll play for Australia pretty quickly, I’d imagine,” White said.
“It’s pretty simple. 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.”
Ahmed, who was granted permanent residency in January, has previously told the ABC of his dream to play for Australia, particularly in the Ashes, after growing up watching great contests between England and Pakistan.
He said he would love to get a chance to bowl on English wickets.
“We are trying our best but it will take some time. We’re going through the process – it can’t be easy to fast-track but I’m hopeful it will come through,” Ahmed said in February.
“That will be a dream moment for me to play an Ashes for Australia in England. [I’ve always watched] cricket there, especially when Pakistan are playing there.
“The spinners are mostly successful there – they are all very successful out there in England. So it would be a good chance to play there and to perform.”
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