17032015Tue

Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Leg-Spinning Pakistani refugee wins Australian Citizenship, in time for The Ashes

The Australian citizenship application of Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed has been fast-tracked, paving the way for the bowler to potentially play The Ashes in England this summer.

The 31-year-old was originally set to be granted Australian citizenship on 18 August but his application was brought forward under a legal provision which allows certain cases to be fast-tracked if the individual can make an "important contribution to Australian life."

“I never even dreamed I would get the chance to play for Australia”, Ahmed said after hearing the news.

"Now I want to give something back to Australia," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Born in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province, Ahmed played first class cricket for Pakistan Customs and the Karachi 'Whites' before travelling to Australia on a short term visa on the invitation of the Yoogali Cricket Association in New South Wales.

Soon after his arrival Down Under applied for asylum, saying his life was in danger from extremists owing to his cricket and his support for girls' education. 

He later settled in Melbourne where he played first class cricket for Melbourne University, among other teams.

In early 2012, his original asylum application was rejected but Ahmed's big break came when he was recruited by Cricket Australia as a net bowler for the national side ahead of a home series against a South African side featuring an unknown leg-spinner called Imran Tahir.

Cricket Australia were so impressed with their new find that chief executive James Sutherland is said to have written to the then immigration minister asking for a review of the rejection of Ahmed's application. 

In November 2012, Bowen personally examined Ahmed’s case and granted him a permanent visa.

Fawad, who is currently on tour with the Australia 'A' team in South Africa and Zimbabwe, could feature in the Australian side for the second or third test against England later this summer, according to reports.

- Viji Alles

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