Former Pakistani asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed moved a step closer to playing in next month's Ashes series against England after being rushed into the Australia A cricket squad for their tour of Britain yesterday.
The prospects of Ahmed, 31, playing for his adopted country improved dramatically when a bill to amend the Citizenship Act, which will help fast-track his application, passed through Australia's lower house of Parliament yesterday.
"Fawad is a spin bowler of interest and we look forward to seeing how he performs for Australia A," chief selector John Inverarity said, expressing confidence that Ahmed's citizenship would soon be awarded.
While the legislation still needs to go through the upper house, Cricket Australia said it appeared there was enough support for it to become law.
The new legislation will give Australia's immigration minister the power to apply shorter residential requirements on some citizenship applicants, such as elite athletes with the potential to represent Australia, as in Ahmed's case.
Currently, according to the International Cricket Council's Player Eligibility Criteria, Ahmed will only become eligible for national selection on August 18. But Cricket Australia said that if the bill should become law, and Ahmed obtains citizenship and an Australian passport before that date, he will immediately be available for the national side.
The opening test of the Ashes series takes place in Nottingham on July 10.
The ICC's criteria does not apply to being picked for A teams, so Ahmed is able to join the current tour, Cricket Australia said.
Ahmed, 31, will leave for Britain this weekend and be available for the Australia A tour matches against Ireland (June 14 to 17) and Gloucestershire (June 21 to 23).
"It's amazing news for me," Ahmed said in Melbourne. "I am very happy.
"It is a great opportunity for me to prove myself for Australia A in overseas conditions," he said.