ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Fawad shelves red ball in World Cup bid
Leg-spinner calls time on first-class career, but remains intent on winning spot in Australia's side for 50-over title defence
12 February 2019, 08:33 PM AEST
Fawad Ahmed has announced his retirement from first-class cricket, but the journeyman leg-spinner is as optimistic as ever he can play a part in Australia's World Cup campaign this year.
After a decorated Sheffield Shield career that’s seen him collect 156 wickets at under 30 as well as three titles, Fawad has confirmed he won't be available for Victoria for the remainder of the ongoing first-class season as he looks to go all in on an unconventional push for a national recall.
The 37-year-old played the last of his five international limited-overs matches nearly six years ago but is hopeful of playing a role in Australia’s 50-over title defence in the United Kingdom later this year.
Although he missed selection for the home summer and the upcoming ODI tour of India, Fawad could come into contention for Australia's five-ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE in March.
Despite not being offered a state contract at the end of last season, Fawad remains among the country's most effective white-ball spinners; since the start of BBL|06, no Australian spin bowler has taken more wickets in the T20 competition.
After his Sydney Thunder narrowly missed a KFC Big Bash finals spot, Fawad will spend the coming weeks in the UAE playing for the Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League, before returning to Pakistan for the T20 league's concluding stages.
It will mark the first time he's played cricket in his native country since fleeing as an asylum seeker nearly a decade ago.
Fawad holds no grudges towards Victoria despite losing his contract last summer and playing just two Shield games this season with Jon Holland preferred as their first-choice spinner, stressing the decision to call time on his 43-game Sheffield Shield career wasn't easy.
"I'm a cricket 'nuffie' so it was pretty hard for me. I love four-day cricket," Fawad told cricket.com.au.
"The way I train and the way I love the game - I have spent hours and hours in the nets and enjoyed my time both on the field and off the field.
"It was a very tough decision, but that was the (best) available option and that was the future looks like.
"There is an end for everything.
"I still love the game – one-day, T20 or four day cricket – but for me the only available option was white-ball cricket so I'm going to continue to play 50-overs and T20."
The right-armer will remain available for selection in domestic 50-over cricket next summer having helped Victoria to this season's title, while he hopes to extend his career on the global T20 circuit as well continuing to play in the BBL.
It's not the typical pathway to a national recall but Fawad is holding out a flicker of hope of an Australian recall for next month's ODI series against Pakistan.
"If I get selected against Pakistan, that would be great. I'm not expecting anything but if something came up, I've been bowling really well for the last few years," he said.
"Performance-wise I'm in a good position and fitness-wise I'm pretty good as well. If something like that came up, it'd be nice to play with my teammates again, otherwise I'm very grateful for what I've had over the last six-seven years here in Victoria."
Fawad said he discussed his decision with Victoria captain Peter Handscomb, coach Andrew McDonald as well as general manager of cricket Shaun Graf.
"They were all pretty happy for me whatever decision I took," explained Fawad, who played in each of Victoria's 'three-peat' of Shield titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
"This wasn’t ideal for me because I wanted to play cricket and I wouldn't be able to play any cricket with Victoria if I was staying for the last couple of months of the summer.
"The best option was to move on and to get some cricket over there (in the PSL) in the near future.
"If something happens regarding Australia or anything, that (playing in the PSL) would really help my cause as well because I'll be in touch with white-ball cricket."
Fawad, the holder of a master's degree in political science and international relations, says he's excited to return to Pakistan for the PSL, which will see the final eight games of the tournament, including finals, played in Karachi and Lahore.
Most major cricket nations have elected not to tour the country for security reasons, with Australia declining fresh requests from the Pakistan Cricket Board to play the upcoming ODI series there.
Current Australia captain Tim Paine was among a trio of Australians to play a three-match series in Lahore for an ICC World XI in 2017 and Fawad hopes international cricket will be back there in the near future.
"Since (recently-elected Prime Minister and former World Cup-winning captain) Imran Khan came to power, the law and order has been great and there's been no such problems," said Fawad, one of six Australians competing in the PSL.
"I have seen Australians like Tim Paine, George Bailey and 'Cuttsy' (Ben Cutting) visit for the World XI and last year in the grand final of the PSL (was held in Karachi).
"People are very passionate about it, they have been deprived for almost 10 years now. Hopefully they will have something to cheer and cherish … the kids will come and watch their own heroes and the ones from overseas as well and from Australia.
"I still love Pakistan – that's my country, my family is there, that's where I was born, that's where I grew up.
"At the same time, I love Australia, that's my new home. I'm not comparing them – it's like a Mum and Dad, you love both."