Fawad to find friendly foes in Canada
Veteran spinner to spend time with banned former Australian teammates in Canadian T20 league later this year
5 June 2018, 03:21 PM AEST
Among the first messages Fawad Ahmed received upon being drafted by the fledgling Vancouver Knights franchise for this month's Global T20 tournament in Canada was from a rival batter who will be looking to flay the leg-spinner to all parts of Toronto’s Maple Leaf Cricket Club.
David Warner has enjoyed a spirited relationship with Fawad over a number of years, most conspicuously during Australia's 2015 Ashes tour to the UK when Warner routinely took to the struggling bowler at nets session.
But the pair have maintained a strong friendship that was forged when they were teammates on an Australia A tour to Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2013, and which will begin a new chapter when they lock horns in the most unlikely of locales – the Great Lakes region of south-east Canada.
The circumstances that unite the Masters-educated spin bowler who seized his second chance at life when he fled his native Pakistan under threat of persecution in 2010, and the opener who until recently was among the most sought-after players in world cricket are as disparate as their respective circumstances.
Fawad is looking to make yet another fresh start having been cut from Victoria’s list of contracted players for next summer, despite being the state’s leading Sheffield Shield wicket-taker since making his debut for them in February 2013.
Warner, who was picked up by the Waqar Younis-coached Winnipeg Hawks in the draft held overnight on Monday (Australia time) is suspended from international and state cricket for the next 10 months for his role in the ball-tampering incident in South Africa last March.
Despite lining up for rival outfits in the 22-match tournament spread over two-and-a-half weeks, Fawad is delighted by the prospect of living and playing alongside Warner and the also-banned former Australia Test captain Steve Smith, who will represent the Toronto Nationals.
"I’ve heard Canada is a nice country – it looks like Australia but a bit colder, although it’s going to be summer over there so it should be fun," Fawad told cricket.com.au.
"More so, I’m really happy for Davey Warner and Smudge (Smith) to be playing and hopefully those two can start their new chapters.
"I know they'll kick on from here because they are quality characters and great cricketers, and I’m looking forward spending some time with them over there.
"He (Warner) texted me very early in the morning (on Monday) and he said 'brother, I’m really happy to be hanging out with you and I’m looking forward to playing over there – Canada, here we come'."
Fawad got to know both suspended stars during 2015 when he was a member of Australia’s Test touring party to the West Indies and then England for the Ashes, where Warner became something of a soul mate and sounding board for the uncapped spinner who was repeatedly overlooked for the starting XI.
Having been left out of the line-up for the opening Test in the Caribbean, at Dominica’s Windsor Park where spinners were expected to dominate, Fawad admits he slumped into despair upon realising his dream of a Baggy Green Cap was unlikely to materialise over the coming months.
And it was to Warner, who at that point had yet to rise to the office of vice-captain, who served as Fawad's primary source of on-tour support.
"When I missed out in Dominica, everyone was saying that I wouldn’t play again on those tours and I knew they were right," Fawad recalled.
"I spoke to Davey and there was even a tear in my eye, I was really upset and said to him 'I’m not going to be playing again on this tour, it looks like this is the end'.
"We’ve played against each other in Australia and had some good times on tour together, especially those tough four months or so in 2015 when I was in the squad and not playing.
"You get to know a lot about each other in that situation and he’s a really, really good man.
"It’s a different story, what people sometimes see.
"In our (Pakistan) culture they say 'if you really want to know a person, travel with him or do trade with him, then you will know the real person'.
"I have travelled a lot with Davey Warner so I know him really well."
Indeed, Fawad acknowledges he's more familiar with some of his fellow Australians from rival franchises than most of those he'll take the field alongside for the Vancouver Knights, who also drafted West Indies drawcard Chris Gayle and New Zealand swing bowler Tim Southee.
One teammate who Fawad will know is former West Indies allrounder Andre Russell with whom he played in the KFC Big Bash League, first for the Melbourne Renegades in BBL|04 and then the Sydney Thunder in the competition’s next two iterations.
Despite being named in the player-chosen Australian Cricketers' Association BBL team of the year for the past two summers, Fawad concedes his priority in a first-class career that began in Pakistan in 2005 has always been the long form of the game.
But now that he is no longer a contracted player with Victoria, he is eyeing a possible role with other franchise T20 competitions possibly in Bangladesh and Pakistan if his form at Premier Cricket level next summer does not convince the Victoria hierarchy he remains worthy of a Shield berth.
"My aim was to always play for Australia, my love was for red-ball cricket and I was never so much interested in playing in those T20 leagues," the 36-year-old said.
"But time changes, and unfortunately sometimes you have no choice but to change your mind.
"You can’t just sit back and expect opportunities to come to you, especially when you get to my age.
"As the saying goes ‘when one door closes for you, another one opens’.
"And I think this will be really exciting."