Fawad Ahmed should be on the plane to the Caribbean

Date: March 24, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Fawad AhmedPakistan-born Fawad Ahmed was dominating the cricket headlines in mid-2013 despite not actually being on the field.

At the time Cricket Australia was attempting to have his Australian citizenship fast-tracked ahead of the Ashes.

On 2 July that year the leg-spinner became an Australian citizen.

The following month he was selected to represent his adopted country in both the ODI and Twenty20 series against England.

He turned out in five internationals on the tour – three ODIs for three wickets at 48.3 and three wickets at 22.7 from his two T20s.

In the end, the plan to hurry him into the Test side was abandoned and he was consigned to representing Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades at domestic level.

Now, 18 months after his last international appearance he is very much in the frame to make his Test debut.

Through the first two days over the weekend in the Sheffield Shield final against Western Australia at Hobart, he sent down 40 overs for career-best figures of 8-89.

He has been the most prolific wicket-taker in the domestic first-class competition this summer with 48 wickets at 23.8, outstanding numbers for a wrist-spinner.

Having made his debut in first-class ranks in Pakistan he has now racked up 36 appearances for a total of 136 wickets at 29.2.

He bowls with an action not dissimilar to Anil Kumble although he imparts far more spin on the ball than the Indian.

His ability to turn the ball sharply has been a key to many of his dismissals this season.

In his last four Shield matches he has claimed three five-wicket hauls – 8-89, 5-35 and 5-50 – and in that time aggregate figures of 24 wickets at an average of 13.5.

Those figures, and his overall showing throughout the summer, should be enough to see him on the plane for June’s two-Test tour of the Caribbean.

From there Australia will cross the Atlantic for another Ashes series.

Whilst incumbent Test spinner Nathan Lyon has been a steady performer for Australia in recent years he has not always risen to the task of running through a side in the latter stages of a match.

Ahmed’s wrist spin may prove a more potent weapon.

There may be times where the pair could be used in tandem but there may also be a case for Ahmed pushing Lyon out of the team.

Australia, in particular, has never been an overly productive country for finger-spinners.

Two modern day greats – Muttiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh – both struggled in Australian conditions with each averaging over 75 in Test ranks.

A quick glance of the leading spin bowlers in Australia’s history clearly shows how leg- spinners have been the more productive.

Shane Warne tops the list with 708 wickets followed by Richie Benaud (248), Clarrie Grimmett (216), Stuart MacGill (208) and Bill O’Reilly (144).

In sixth position is the leading finger-spinning wicket taker, Hugh Trumble – whose career ended in 1904 – with 141 wickets.

Lyon is the next best in that department with 138 scalps narrowly ahead of Ashley Mallett (132) and Bruce Yardley (126).

Ahmed turned 33 last month and he is certainly at the peak of his powers.

He still has potentially three years of first-class cricket ahead of him and given the number of Tests played nowadays that could equate to around 40 Tests over that period.

Since the retirement of Warne eight years ago Australia has gone through a number of wrist-spin bowlers.

MacGill, who was towards the end of his career when Warne departed, played briefly before injury cut him down.

The selectors also showed faith in Beau Casson, Cameron White, Bryce McGain and Steve Smith (who debuted at number eight in the batting order at Lord’s in 2010).

Left-arm wristie Brad Hogg reappeared in December 2007 but made only three appearances.

The selectors have been desperate to find a permanent leg-spinner and have promoted some to Test level only to see their time in the baggy green ended as quickly as it started with both Casson and McGain only making the one appearance.

Perhaps the time has come to blood another in the form of Fawad Ahmed.

His performances at first-class level in Australia stand above many of those who have previously been given the nod in the post-Warne era.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 23 March 2015