He’s only just played his maiden first-class game in this country, yet people have already been talking him up as the next great Australian spin hope for months now. His recently concluded Shield debut ended with him collecting 7 wickets for the match including a 5-fa in the second innings – across both innings he bowled a hefty 58.3 overs, especially when compared to fellow debutant spinner Clive Rose’s 23.1 overs (which included just 6 over for the second innings – after picking up 3 wickets in the first – compared to Ahmed’s 32.3 overs).
Since his lacklustre debut for the Renegades in the BBL at the beginning of the year Fawad has figured in all matches he’s played – which has included the PM’s XI against the Windies (where he was maybe a touch expensive), 2 one-day fixtures for Victoria against the English Lions touring side, Ryobi Cup matches against South Australia and Queensland and then followed by his Shield debut. Across those last six games he’s tallied a more than decent 17 wickets.
Quite a few Journo’s seem to have him pegged as a sure thing to represent Australia in the very near future, and this is despite the fact that he’s only played a handful of games for Victoria. Don’t believe me? Try following a few of them on twitter. Of those that I follow none of them have anything bad to say about him, nothing. I can’t say I’ve seen one remotely negative thing said about him. Of course, I have no doubt that they’ve likely seen a lot more of him in action than I have, my only real reference point is what I saw of him during his solitary BBL outing – which, honestly, didn’t do much for me.
And there is always a but, let’s all just settle down for a moment. He’s played one first class game for Victoria, and he’s not even eligible to play for Australia yet – that date apparently rolls around in mid-August, right before the 5th Ashes Test at The Oval. But citizenship and eligibility certainly aren’t the only obstacles he’s going to face.
By the time August rolls around everyone might have forgotten about him and shifted their focus onto some other fringe spinner who they’ll be touting as the next big thing. Just last week several were tipping the possibility of a shock Ashton Agar selection for the 1st Test in India simply because he took a couple of wickets in a preceding tour game. Give me a break.
Yes Agar, like Ahmed, appears to be a decent talent, but he’s young – unlike Ahmed who’ll be 34 before he’s eligible for Australian selection (Update 22/02: latest word is that he might actually only be 31, which could improve his chances if verified) – and the thought of dropping him in the deep-end with a crazy shock selection on an Indian dust bowl was nothing more than pure madness. Sure fire way to kill his career before it’s begun if you ask me. Let’s say for a moment that the selectors had a mental break and picked him, he then goes wicketless and concedes 200 runs, Australia lose. Irrespective of whether he’s actually at fault, he’s where the blame gets directed, he gets dropped for the 2nd Test and is never seen in a baggy green again – International career done and dusted before he’s turned 20. Would be a horrible shame is he’s as promising as they make out.
Sure, maybe that seems like an extreme example, ok, remember Jason Krejza? He made his test debut in the 4th Test against India, in India, 5 years ago – after Australia hadn’t played a specialist spinner in the first three (if you don’t include Cameron White, which I’m not). He took 12 wickets in that match, 8 in the first innings alone, but conceded a stack of runs (358) across the 74.5 overs he threw down in an eventual Australian loss. A month later against the South Africans in the 1st Test at Perth he finished with figures of 1/204 from 49 overs. He was replaced by Nathan Hauritz for the 2nd Test in that series, and hasn’t been seen again since. Even a stack of wickets on debut couldn’t save him.
Back to Fawad, and I mentioned it briefly above, but he turns 34 in a couple of weeks. At a time when ‘old’ players are being dropped, sorry ‘not considered’, it seems borderline ridiculous that the selectors would entertain the idea of picking a 34-year-old spinner when there are plenty of much younger guys going around. Keeping in mind that George Bailey, Australian T20 captain, solid batsman, was ‘overlooked’ for the Indian tour – where he might have been a decent option to replace the retired Mike Hussey – primarily because his ‘age was against him’. C’mon, seriously, he’s only 30. How old was Mr Cricket when he debuted? Oh, yeah. 30.
Still on the topic of age, let’s look to the past again quickly, remember the last ‘old spinner’ to debut for Australia? Bryce McGain, he’d been going alright for the Bushrangers in the Shield, Warnie had even given him a big wrap. He debuted in South Africa early in 2009, got slapped around conceding 8.27 runs per over – remember, this was a test match – finished with 0/149. Never seen again.
All that aside, there is absolutely no reason why age should actually count against Fawad – or anyone else for that matter – but if selections continue to follow recent trends then maybe it will. At this point I think experience is what will count against him, there’s not a whole lot of cricket left this summer, and if his early success doesn’t continue towards the end of the season then the dream could fizzle out before it even begins. Not sure if he has plans, or is even eligible, to pick up some county cricket over the Winter, but if he’s seriously chasing a spot in the Aussie side, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Fast fawad, sorry couldn’t help myself, to the Ashes next Summer. Maybe the SCG is looking particularly spin-friendly, maybe the selectors opt to pull a surprise and give Ahmad, or Agar, or someone else a spot in the side as a second specialist spinner. Maybe they don’t. We’ll have to wait and see.
Oh, and one last thing, there’s this guy, you’ve probably heard of him. Nathan Lyon. Yeah, the one who’s been the Australian Test Spinner for the past couple of years. I just wish he’d get a little more support from the press, and certain few ex-players. He’s doing alright, and he sure as heck doing a whole lot better than the other 7 guys the selectors tried before him (which I covered in more detail here).
What I’m really hoping is that Lyon has a strong tour of India – and if the Aussies continue to pick him as the lone specialist spinner, he’s going to be under the pump too – and that a few solid performances not only build up his confidence heading into the run of 10 consecutive Ashes tests, but also get the media off his back for a while. Let’s, just for a change, talk about the spinner we’ve currently got rather than the one we might have on August 19th, or the one we had 10 years ago…