Former Pakistani refugee Fawad Ahmed has been named in an 18-man squad for the limited-overs series against England beginning on August 29. Photo: AFP
Fawad Ahmed is set to make his much-anticipated debut for Australia within weeks and is in contention for the return Ashes series at home this summer, according to national selector John Inverarity.
The former Pakistani refugee, whose Australian citizenship became official with a ceremony hours before the first Test at Trent Bridge last month, has been named in an 18-man squad for the limited-overs series against England beginning on August 29.
The leg-spinner had been mooted as a late addition to the Ashes squad for the present series after amendments to citizenship laws passed both house of federal parliament but after featuring in the Australia A tour of England he was instead sent to Africa for another A team campaign in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
At 31 he has been selected at the expense of Xavier Doherty, who was left out despite being one of 20 players handed Cricket Australia central contracts in April.
"I don't know about it being a surprise because it's been brewing for some time," Inverarity said of Ahmed's inclusion. "But this is the time for his opportunity. He played for Australia A on the tour to the UK.
"He played in Ireland and then in Bristol against Gloucestershire, and now he's been on this tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa in both four-day cricket and 50-over cricket. He's bowling well, so this is his opportunity. We're very keen to see him and see how he fares in international cricket.
"I saw him bowl at Bristol [for Australia A in June] and it was actually a very bitterly cold, gusty day and it was very difficult for spin bowlers, and in particular for wrist-spin bowlers. He's been bowling very well in South Africa and turning the ball and troubling the batsmen so we're keen to have a look at him."
Asked whether Ahmed was a chance to be picked in the home Ashes series this summer, despite the status of Nathan Lyon as the country's No.1 spinner, Inverarity said: "He would be in contention for that. We'll see how he goes. He played in some Shield matches [for Victoria] at the end of the last Australian summer, bowled well and took wickets, so we're just keen to see how he goes at international level. He and a number of other spinners will be contention as well."
The one-day side will be captained by Michael Clarke, silencing suggestions he could be rested from the limited-overs component of the tour to ease the stress on his troublesome back. The squad also includes NSW fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, who played his only ODI for Australia as a teenager in England in 2010, and was in the Test squad during the series against South Africa last summer.
The selection news is a blow, however, for Doherty, whose brief Test career took a nosedive on Australia's forgettable tour of India in February and March. Inverarity said the Tasmania left-hander would likely be chosen alongside Ahmed, though, for the limited-overs campaign in India to follow.
"Xavier has been a fine performer for Australia over the years," Inverarity said. "We haven't selected the side for India, for the seven ODIs there in October, but it's likely that both players will be on that tour.
"He's very much a known quantity and he's a wonderful young man and a very good cricketer... He can be hopeful that further opportunities will come his way."
The squad will be reduced to 15 after the two Twenty20 internationals against England at Southampton on August 29, and Durham on August 31.
Australia will then play Scotland in a one-day international in Edinburgh, and five 50-over games against England between September 6 and September 16.
Australian limited-overs squad: Michael Clarke (ODI captain), George Bailey (T20 captain), Fawad Ahmed, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Phil Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.