Shane Warne believes Pakistani-born legspinner Fawad Ahmed can become an unlikely Ashes hero for Australia in England.
Former refugee Ahmed, 31, having fled his native Pakistan in 2010, will be eligible if minor changes to Australia’s citizenship legislation pass through parliament in the next few weeks.
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 the series starting in July.
“I think for him the whole story of his is a very courageous one,” Australian 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 legspinner 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.”
Ahmed has only played three first-class matches for Victoria but has taken 16 wickets in that time.
“He’s got a mature head on his shoulders,” said an admiring Warne. “He’s been through hell, basically – he’s been through a tough time,” he said.
“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.”
And 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 legspinner in, it’s good,” said Warne, speaking 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 under-estimates Australia in the Ashes, they do at their own peril because I think they have the side there that could surprise England.”