Australia has an unlikely weapon as it prepares to stave off a red-hot South African bowling attack, a Pakistani asylum-seeker who will be helping batsmen ready for the Proteas.
Fawad Ahmed, who left his home in the border region near Afghanistan to come to Australia on a short-stay visa to play cricket in 2010, is awaiting news on whether his claim for asylum has been accepted.
In the meantime, he will be used by the Australian team for batting practice during the South Africa series because of the similarities in his bowling to the Proteas’ leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
“I’m really excited and I think I can bowl well. It’s good for them and it’s good for me, that they have asked me to go there,” Ahmed told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ahmed is familiar with naturalised South African Tahir, having played against him when they were both in Pakistan’s domestic cricket.
“We are the same height, with a high arm action, and we can both bowl a good wrong ‘un,” he said.
“His leg spin is bouncy, and I am like him, so it’s good for the Australian batsmen to practise on my bowling”.
Ahmed will be in Brisbane as a net bowler ahead of the Test starting on November 9, even though there is no guarantee South Africa, with its powerful pace line-up, will use Tahir at the Gabba.
But Australian opener Ed Cowan, who pushed for Ahmed to be a net bowler, said it made sense to practise against him ahead of the contest against the world’s number one Test side.
“If you’re looking to prepare for someone who would have been hard to replicate, you may as well get someone who, to the naked eye, seems pretty similar,” Cowan told the Herald.
Ahmed has previously said he was targeted by Muslim extremists in Pakistan because of his involvement in cricket, even receiving death threats because of the perception that the sport promotes Western values.