Refugee spinner selected for PM's XI
Fawad Ahmed will play for the PM's XI. Photo: Chris Hyde
Fawad Ahmed has gone from asylum seeker to rubbing shoulders with Julia Gillard at The Lodge.
Another chapter was written in the feel-good story of Australian cricket as the Pakistan-born leg-spinner was on Friday selected in the Prime Minister's XI for the match with the West Indies at Canberra's Manuka Oval on January 29.
An official reception for the team will be held the preceding day, with 30-year-old Ahmed sure to thank Gillard for the government granting his permanent visa late last year after having it initially rejected.
The PM's XI team.
Ahmed fled Pakistan after receiving death threats for promoting Western values and supporting organisations that promoted the education of women and girls.
He rose to prominence as a net bowler for the Australian team before last November's Test with South Africa in Brisbane, leading to him securing a Big Bash League contract with the Melbourne Renegades.
Retired great Ricky Ponting, who will lead the PM's XI, faced Ahmed in the nets and was delighted with his selection.
''He's a really likeable guy and has a really good skillset as a leg-spin bowler,'' Ponting said.
''The more he can be around these sort of games and be around Big Bash squads and bowl against some of the best players in the world will help his development.''
There's a multicultural feel to the PM's XI; Ahmed is joined by another Pakistan-born player Usman Khawaja, who made his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka at the MCG on Friday night, and promising Indian-born paceman Gurinder Sandhu from NSW.
Former Test wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will be hoping for a warm homecoming when the ACT product reignites his feud with Chris Gayle, while all-rounder James Faulkner and top-order batsman Alex Doolan can press their claims for higher honours.
ACT Comets captain Jono Dean will fill the spot designated for a player from the local competition, the hard-hitting opener turning heads with his performances in the Futures League and earning a Big Bash contract with the Renegades.
Although he wasn't required, the 28-year-old Bathurst junior knows another chance is around the corner if he keeps racking up the runs.
''I'll be out to impress as much as I can and see how Ponting and Haddin go about their business and pick up as much as I can,'' Dean said.
''I just hope I can lay bat on ball.
''I'll be working hard in the next few weeks to get ready and make the most of the opportunity.''
Left-arm quick Nick Winter from Eastlake is the 12th man for the first game under lights at Manuka Oval.