Australia news July 2, 2013

Fawad Ahmed granted Australian citizenship


The legspinner Fawad Ahmed's application for Australian citizenship has officially been approved, clearing the way for a possible call-up to the Test squad for the Ashes. Ahmed described the confirmation from former federal immigration minister Brendan O'Connor as a "dream moment", and said he was now looking forward to giving something back to the country that had welcomed him after he fled from Pakistan in 2010.

In one of his final acts as immigration minister before losing the position in a cabinet reshuffle, O'Connor approved the application last week and an official citizenship ceremony is all that remains before Ahmed can obtain his passport. The announcement was made at the MCG on Tuesday and O'Connor said he had listened to a number of submissions, including those from Cricket Australia, on the character and virtues possessed by Ahmed.

"I was able to tell Fawad Ahmed today that his application for citizenship has been approved," O'Connor said. "It was approved late last week ... and it was approved because we were able to look at the application in a different light because of the changes to the Australian citizenship act that went through the parliament not long ago."

Those changes meant that some individuals could have their citizenship fast-tracked if it was considered they could be of benefit to Australia in a range of fields, including sport, science, medicine and the performing arts.

However, Ahmed's lack of wickets in two matches for Australia A in Belfast and Bristol last month mean that an Ashes call-up is no certainty, and he is instead concentrating on the upcoming Australia A tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Ahmed said he was grateful for the support he had received in his application for citizenship and he was pleased to be able to focus solely on cricket for the first time in many years.

"It's a long journey and it was a long struggle," Ahmed said on Tuesday. "The whole community of Australia - the people really supported me throughout this journey. It's a victory for our sport ... and for this country. I just can't wait to be a citizen. Especially in the field of cricket, I just want to give back something to this country.

"I have a great opportunity with Australia A in Zimbabwe and South Africa. I will try my best to perform well on those two tours and it depends on the selections. It will be an honour to represent Australia in the Ashes or maybe other tournaments. It's more relaxed now, I can feel there are no issues. Now I'm a citizen and can concentrate on my cricket and look forward to my bright future in cricket."

Whether that bright future includes this year's Ashes tour remains to be seen. The left-arm spinner Ashton Agar is likely to travel with the Ashes group in a development capacity, not as an official squad member, but his encouraging performances for Australia A could make him a more likely candidate for a call-up than Ahmed if the selectors decide they need a second spinner alongside Nathan Lyon.

Agar picked up six wickets at 16.50 on the Australia A tour of the British Isles and will play for the Australians in their tour match against Worcestershire starting on Tuesday. By comparison, Ahmed had a tougher time for Australia A and managed only two wickets at 82.50.

"The conditions were tough," Ahmed said. "It was freezing cold, it was nine degrees and the wind was pretty fast. I was bowling against the wind. But I should have bowled a bit better than that. I bowled a few really good balls as well and beat the bat, and I was unlucky a few times with dropped catches but that's a part of cricket."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Graham on July 3, 2013, 5:26 GMT

    I think what most commenters are missing is Fawad moved to Australia not to further his cricketing career but for political asylum. The reasons have been documented in several articles. The fact he is handy at cricket has sped up the immigration process, but with a modest first class record I cant see him playing for Australia anytime soon. I think it is a great story that a refugee has been able to represent Australia A and hopefully show the world of Australias tolerance to all cultures. To me Fawad is an Australian and like all Australian cricketers should now be judged on performance irrespective of the heritage.

  • A on July 3, 2013, 2:50 GMT

    I hope he does better for Australia than Imran Tahir has done for SA. Remember these are players who were not even on selectors radar in Pakistan. And just because they are from sub-continent doesn't mean they can spin the ball well.

  • Graham on July 3, 2013, 1:33 GMT

    Also, please the Khawaja debate he has been in Australia since he was two years old. He is Australian and considered Australian by the selectors and team mates alike. He hasn't made the runs to guarantee his spot in the team - I believe ethnicity doesn't even come in to the equation.

  • Peter on July 2, 2013, 22:57 GMT

    For those who don't get it let's set a few things straight. Fawad asked for political asylum, he wasn't released, poached, invited or whatever else has been offered up. The circumstances for his reasons are well documented. The goods news should have climaxed by being picked up by one of the BBL teams & even getting selection late in the season for Victoria. Now the rest is a source of great concern that he could be selected after 2 games, an undistinguished fc career that continued with very ordinary performances for Australia A. He is well behind a few other notable spinners in Australia & the question that really should be asked is why weren't these players selected, not why was Fawad was. But good luck to him, he is very welcome to our country & I really hope he thrives in whatever he chooses to do.

  • Peter on July 2, 2013, 22:50 GMT

    @KiwiRocker. Ill informed comments? Perhaps, my friend, you better start reading the news. Try looking up the SMH/sports & cricket section & read about it yourself & join me in my "ill informed comments". And yes, Pakistan is considering selecting him for the next tour even though he hasn't played a fc game to block his move. He did, btw, play for South Australia 2nd XI in the futures shield, a prelude to being selected to the shield side. Ill informed? OK, if you say so. Perhaps I should have added, he wanted to return, stay the required time THEN apply for citizenship, but however you look at it, he is cosidering it, so hardly "ill-informed".

  • j on July 2, 2013, 22:29 GMT

    As there's no other spinner in Australia truly capable of being world class, Fawad Ahmed is a welcome addition to the Australian cricket team. Like all spinners he will need time to adapt his game to test cricket, and he will no doubt prove handy on away tours.

  • Idli on July 2, 2013, 16:00 GMT

    I am happy for this guy but find this totally bizarre. The basis for his citizenship application is asylum which means there needs to be a genuine threat to his life and safety back in his home country. If the immigration body didn't find it credible the first time it meant there was really no threat. I am not going to argue whether there was a threat to his life or not. Only this guy knows that and only the Australian immigration authorities have a right to judge. However fast tracking his application that is based on asylum grounds and approving it because he has rare skills doesn't make sense. I am an immigrant myself and all for recognition of skills and expertise...each country has the right to decide who to allow to be immigrated and who not but this case seems completely illogical unless he had a new application based on his skills different than his asylum case. Otherwise it sounds totally opportunistic on both sides and not an asylum need based.

  • Dummy4 on July 2, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    I think CA is rushing too much to put Fawad in Australian squad. I know he's a good bowler but in some of recent matches he hasn't been upto that mark. Being a Pakistani i want him to play for Australia but in case if he doesn't peform then what CA will do? And it might be not good for his international career..

  • Dipen on July 2, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    If someone is born in a perticular county then he/she has birth rite to represent that country in any field. and living in USA myself for many years I know this players are completely loyal and passonate to play for their birth country. therefore I dont consider Amla as Indian or khawaja as pak/Indian. they are Safairs and ausralians. however we subcontiential people should take pride in them as we share common ancestry roots.

  • Dummy4 on July 2, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Why not throw him in, the Poms don't play legspin any better now then they did historically !