LONDON (AFP) – England great Graham Gooch expressed surprise Tuesday that Australia were prepared to pick Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed.
Leg-spinner Ahmed, 31, a former refugee, had his bid for Australian citizenship accepted earlier Tuesday, making him eligible to play in the forthcoming Ashes Test series in England.
"It's certainly not been their preferred modus operandi in the past, but if someone has qualified to live in the country and gets all the stamps in their passport, a naturalised Australian, he becomes just another opponent," former England captain Gooch told the BBC on Tuesday.
"We'll obviously have tabs on him to see what he does and how he performs because if he does make an appearance in the series we need to be aware of that," Gooch, one of England's best openers and now the team's batting coach added.
"I wouldn't pass judgement on it, but it's not a route that they have gone down before."
Australians have generally prided themselves on fielding only 'home-grown' players for their national side.
Large sections of their media have been scornful of England's tendency to pick South Africa-born batsmen such as Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Nick Compton, wicket-keeper Matt Prior and retired former captain Andrew Strauss, even if the latter two in fact learnt their cricket in England.
Ahmed played for Australia A in England last month and national selector John Inverarity has indicated he will be considered as an addition to Australia's Ashes squad.
The bowler returned from England in June after the Australian government moved amendments to the Citizenship Act through the upper house of parliament to help fast-track Ahmed's application.
Australia will begin their bid to regain the Ashes when the first of a five-match series starts in Nottingham on July 10.
At present off-break bowler Nathan Lyon is the leading specialist spinner in an Australia squad boosted to 18 by the inclusion of leg-spinning all-rounder Steven Smith as cover for captain Michael Clarke, while left-armer Ashton Agar is with the tourists until at least the second Test as a "development player".