Fawad Ahmed will not be distracted by David Campese comments say Australia

 

Australia's Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed is more likely to worry about his apparently questionable table-tennis skills than David Campese's suggestion that he should "go home".

Former Wallabies rugby union star Campese is ill at ease with Ahmed's decision, on religious grounds, to shed the logo of Australia sponsors VB - a brewing company - on his limited-overs shirt.

As Ahmed continues his maiden tour for his adopted country, however, Australia batsman George Bailey has made it clear his 31-year-old team-mate will not be put off by Campese's remarks on Twitter, which led to a backlash against the 50-year-old and debate over the issue.

Ahmed fled Pakistan as an asylum-seeker three years ago and, after having his Australian citizenship fast-tracked, was eligible to begin his international career against England in the NatWest limited-overs series which will on Sunday head to Emirates Old Trafford.

It would be understandable perhaps if he were troubled by the reaction in some quarters to his reluctance as a Muslim to endorse alcohol - but Bailey believes that is far from the case.

Asked if Ahmed has spoken about the situation, Bailey said: "No he hasn't."

Australia's one-day international vice-captain went on to depict Ahmed's effervescent and engaging character, saying: "He talked up his table tennis, and he's let himself down a little bit there.

"That's probably been a bigger issue for him."

The consequences of adhering to religious principles will not cause Ahmed any consternation.

"I don't think it'd particularly worry Fawad," added Bailey. "I think Cricket Australia and [the sponsors] obviously came up with an agreement that they're happy with, and Fawad's happy with. So I don't think it's really up to anyone else."

Ahmed, who made his Twenty20 debut against England last week and added an ODI cap in Scotland four days ago, was kept off the field by Friday's washout in Leeds.

He has already built up a strong working bond with coach Darren Lehmann, according to Bailey - who is confident Ahmed will give barely a thought to others' lingering discontent about his missing logo.

"I think he's probably had to deal with a lot more important things than what's on the front of his shirt," Bailey said.

"Fawad (has) a great sense of humour.

"He and the coach have a pretty funny relationship. They like to get stuck into each other, which always provides a lot of lighthearted stuff around the group.

"I know now he's had a taste of playing for Australia he wants to do it a lot - but he wants to do it in all three formats."

Whether he gets his next chance in the second match of five at Old Trafford is a moot point, given the turn in the weather which wrecked the series opener.

"Manchester and Birmingham?" Bailey asked, tongue in cheek.

"A few guys reckon they've never actually got through a game in Birmingham without rain at some stage ... but I'm sure we'll be right."

Wherever Australia do begin their NatWest campaign, Bailey warns they will be out to set the record straight after their Champions Trophy and Ashes disappointments this summer.

"When you've lost a series you try to get that out of your head as quickly as possible and really challenge the new guys to come in," Bailey said.

"I know Boof [Lehmann] is really excited about this series, because it's the first squad that he had a say in picking.

"He was really excited about getting this squad together - and like with the T20, starting to have one eye on the World Cup and what the potential make-up of that team might be.

"We want to leave England on a high, winning a series and hoping to put behind us a pretty disappointing Champions Trophy - leading into what's going to be a huge (Australian) summer."

England's squad, like Australia's, is much-changed from the personnel deployed in the Ashes - with a clutch of emerging as well as more established players in the mix.

Some high-profile pundits have questioned the policy of resting so many first-choice regulars at once, but Bailey said: "I couldn't give a toss who England pick.

"I worry about playing for Australia and how we play and who we pick. What the other teams do, (I've) no interest."

PA

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