Sydney: Australia's chief selector John Inverarity says Pakistani asylum-seeker Fawad Ahmed will be in contention for a place in the Ashes squad to tour England if he is granted citizenship in time.
The 31-year-old legspinner was handed a permanent visa to remain in Australia in November after leaving his home in the border region near Afghanistan, where he said he was targeted by Muslim extremists.
But to play for Australia in the Ashes from July he needs fast-tracked citizenship and an Australian passport. Otherwise, under International Cricket Council (ICC) rules, he will not become available until August 18, before the fifth Test at the Oval.
"Fawad Ahmed is a mature and very good legspinner," Inverarity said.
"I've seen quite a bit of him and all those who have played against him, and the coaching staff, rate him as a good bowler.
"He would certainly come under consideration. It will all be considered on merit. He will be treated no differently from anybody else."
Inverarity admitted the significance of a former asylum-seeker from Pakistan playing for Australia could not be understated.
"If it were all to happen, it would be a wonderful thing for our Australian society, someone who through the medium of cricket has become a central figure in our community," he said.
Since his arrival, Ahmed has established himself with the Melbourne Renegades in the T20 Big Bash League and made an appearance for the Prime Minister's XI against the West Indies in January. He is seen as a handy back-up to Nathan Lyon, with few other stand-out spinning candidates beyond Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell.
Lyon had an ordinary tour of India, during which Australia lost the Test series 4-0, although he bounced back to take nine wickets in the fourth Test and Inverarity threw his support behind him. "He is our lead spinner and we hope he develops and becomes a really good spin bowler," he said of Lyon.