SYDNEY (AFP) – Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed was on Wednesday named on the Australia A squad for a tour of Africa beginning next month, despite also being in contention for selection for the Ashes series against England.
Ahmed was added to the 15-man squad for the July and August tour along with Ashton Agar, who has Sri Lankan grandparents and paceman Gurinder Sandhu, born in Australia but of Indian heritage.
"This is a young squad with an abundance of talent and all players will be pressing for higher honours," national selector John Inverarity said.
Ahmed and Agar are joined by five fellow members of the current Australia A squad in England -- Alex Doolan, Moises Henriques, Chadd Sayers, Nic Maddinson and Steve Smith -- as well as three players from the ICC Champions Trophy Squad -- Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Inverarity said Smith had been appointed captain and Tim Paine would be wicketkeeper, while top-order batsman Shaun Marsh was "being provided with another opportunity".
"It will be a very good opportunity for him as it will be for Aaron Finch who did so well against the England Lions in February," he said.
Inverarity said opening bowler Sandhu was "most impressive at the end of the Australian summer" and deserved this recognition, while Josh Hazlewood is a good prospect for South Africa.
"Should replacements be required for the Ashes tour these players will be playing in a similar time zone from during this time," he said.
Ahmed is not yet eligible to play in the national team but the prospects of the 31-year-old 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 earlier this month.
Once approved by the Senate, 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.
Bowler Pat Cummins, recovering from a back injury, will accompany the squad as a development player. Inverarity said Cummins rehabilitation was progressing well and he would play in a couple of very low intensity games in Ireland this week.
"There is a possibility he could play towards the backend of the tour to South Africa also," Inverarity added.
Australia A play three, four-day matches beginning on July 18 against Zimbabwe in Harare. They play South Africa A in Pretoria from July 24 and again from July 31 in Rustenburg. They then take part in a one-day series against South Africa A and India A beginning August 6.
Australia A squad: Steve Smith (capt), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Fawad Ahmed, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Alex Doolan, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Nic Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Gurinder Sandhu, Chadd Sayers