THE xenophobes in Australia — and that’s a goodly proportion of the population — will find themselves in a difficult position if Fawad Ahmed is granted citizenship and selected to play for Australia in the Ashes cricket series against England later this year.
You see, Ahmed is an asylum-seeker from Pakistan. Asylum-seekers are a class of human beings whom the average Australian, with his/her devotion to a fair go, deems to be sub-human and only deserving of being sent back to their country of origin. Or drowned at sea.
Ahmed applied for permanent residence last year and while he was awaiting a decision, it emerged that he was a more than capable leg-spinner. Australia was a few weeks from taking on South Africa in a Test series and so he was asked to go over and help the Australians in their net practice. South Africa has a spinner of Pakistani origin, Imran Tahir, in its ranks and the Australians needed to play a good spinner to prepare to face Tahir.
After that the authorities intervened and got him his PR pretty fast. Ahmed did well in the nets, landed a contract with the Melbourne Renegades in the annual Twenty20 tournament, and did a pretty good job there too.
Next, he was selected to play for Victoria against Queensland and promptly returned a match-bag of seven wickets. His captain, Cameron Smith, ranks Ahmed as the best spinner he has seen after Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill. That is high praise indeed.
Smith’s observations come at a time when Australia has just been hammered by India in the first Test of a four-match series on a spinning track in Chennai. Australia’s lone spinner was taken for 215 runs in the first innings and ended with 4 wickets for 244 in the game.
And so the talk has turned to how Australia will combat not only India in the remaining Tests, but England in June. This is an English team that defeated India 2-1 in a Test series in India very recently, with two spinners, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, proving to be the trump cards.
Enter Ahmed. There is talk that the immigration minister Brendan O’Connor is now considering his application for citizenship. Australia is a sports-mad country and the Ashes are one of the most popular sporting contests. Australia never forgets that it was initially populated by convicts who were sent from Britain; paying back the mother country is something every Australian loves.
If Ahmed makes it and proves to be some kind of equalising factor in the Ashes, it will be a classic good news story.
But the xenophobes will choke on their cornflakes – after all, how can a brown-skin from a country like Pakistan, ever be considered a good enough person to play cricket for Australia?