Ashes 2013: This is now a crisis for Australia. We need Fawad Ahmed to answer the SOS call
The Aussie Angle: Ahmed claimed four wickets in each innings for Australia A
Monday 22 July 2013
Steve Smith and Ashton Agar were promoted into the Test team from outside the initial Ashes squad so it would come as little surprise if Australia were to do the same thing at Old Trafford.
The team needs an infusion of talent, toughness and ticker but a tweak may be the best Australia can manage as they prepare to send out an SOS before the third Test.
Having persuaded the Australian government to introduce legislation fast-tracking Fawad Ahmed’s application for citizenship, it would be churlish for Australia not to pick him in their hour of greatest need.
Australia’s quest to regain the Ashes is becoming more ragged by the session. But as the prominent Australian football coach Mick Malthouse is wont to say, the Chinese term for crisis is the same as the one for opportunity. In Australia’s crisis could come Ahmed’s opportunity.
Usman Khawaja showed at Lord’s yesterday that the high hopes placed in him over the past two years have some chance of being fulfilled, and Ahmed could follow in his footsteps.
Indeed, Ahmed may be Australia’s best prospect of getting back into the Ashes.
He had a bowl-off with Agar at Bristol last month after the Australian selectors decided that off-spinner Nathan Lyon was not going to provide the impact required on pitches likely to be as arid as any in world cricket. Agar won the battle of Bristol but it may be that Ahmed wins the war.
That Australia A versus Gloucestershire game was played in icy conditions in which the two rivals only reluctantly retrieved their fingers from their pockets when called into action.
Agar showed enough in his match load of 11 overs to get the nod at Trent Bridge, where his arrival as Test cricket’s most successful No 11 understandably overshadowed his bowling contribution.
The teenager made a promising start but still has a significant way to go to become an effective spinner at elite level. His character and temperament have shone in the cauldron of Test cricket but it is the technical element of his bowling that warrants scrutiny.
A tall left-armer in the mould of New Zealand’s great spinner Daniel Vettori, whose beguiling loop, dip and drift are the products of a ferocious action that uncoils like a whip, Agar does not generate the same levels of energy.
Agar’s front foot plants but does not pivot, he bowls around his front leg as much as over it and he does not follow through with the quivering power of a spring coming to rest.
Yet technical flaws can be eradicated with time and toil and Agar has the three greatest attributes any spinner needs to succeed – he spins the ball hard, he has the imagination to create wicket-taking opportunities and he has the equilibrium to avoid getting flustered under attack.
All this and he is still 19! Whether Agar plays at Old Trafford next week may depend as much on the niggling hip flexor strain he picked up at Lord’s as an assessment of his state of mind after two Tests and the weight of becoming a genuine overnight sensation.
Ahmed is with Australia A in Africa and could hardly have scripted a better time to claim four wickets in each innings in the opening match of the tour.
Under his residency qualification, Ahmed would not have been eligible to play for Australia until 18 August this year.
Could the Act of Parliament that brought that day forward by a month or so be the most significant decision made this series?
In a summer when Australia’s application of DRS has been pilloried, the back room marked by blood-letting and back-stabbing, with bar-room shenanigans tarnishing the on-field feats, it is a relief to know that at least one off-field decision-making process may benefit the team.
John Townsend is Cricket Writer for The West Australian
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