Spin king Shane Warne says Fawad Ahmed would be a great addition to the Ashes squad if his Australian citizenship can be fast-tracked in time.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has introduced a bill into federal parliament that will enable citizenship to be granted quickly in special circumstances.
While O’Connor didn’t mention Ahmed by name on Thursday he referred to “elite athletes” and government sources confirmed the Pakistan leggie would be covered by the measure.
Warne argues his story is “heroic”.
“He’s a quality spinner,” the former Australian leggie told reporters at The Oval on Thursday.
“To see him keep fighting and doing well and now be in the position where he could possibly play for Australia – it’s a real feel-good story.
“Let’s hope he can get picked and if his documentation comes through and he is available to play I hope to see him in the squad because I think he’d be a great addition.”
Ahmed, who some judges rate the best spinner in the country, played first-class cricket in Pakistan before fleeing to Australia in 2010 where, after an initial rejection, he was granted asylum and permanent residency.
He broke into the Victorian team last season and was awarded a three-year contract last month.
The 31-year-old will qualify for Australia under ICC rules in mid-August but under existing laws couldn’t be granted citizenship in time for the Ashes.
The proposed change would clear the way for a fast-tracked passport provided parliament can pass the bill promptly.
The legislation would give the minister personal power to apply shorter residential requirements on some citizenship applicants.
Offspinner Nathan Lyon is the only spinner currently named in the Ashes squad.
He’s been sledged in the British press this week with former England player Geoffrey Boycott declaring: “My mum would like to bat against him.”
Warne says such comments are simply part of the usual pre-Ashes banter.
“If Boycott wants to say that Nathan Lyon couldn’t get his mum out it’s up to him to say that.
“But I think he (Lyon) will do well.”