'Grateful' Fawad returns home after COVID-19 ordeal
Having recovered from the illness that tragically took his mother's life last year, Fawad Ahmed's appetite for cricket - and the global T20 circuit - has not been diminished
29 March 2021, 07:03 PM AEST
Fawad Ahmed couldn't help but think about his mother as he lay in his Karachi hotel room, ill with COVID-19.
The leg-spinner was bed-bound for 17 days having contracted the virus during the early stages of Pakistan Super League, which had been swiftly postponed after multiple players tested positive earlier this month.
While Fawad begun suffering severe headaches and the effects of a fever four days after his diagnosis, like most fit and healthy adults who have had the virus he did not need to go to hospital and ultimately recovered.
Yet the 39-year-old understands just how cruel the illness can be.
In October, his mother Rahat died, one of more than 14,000 Pakistanis to have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
"She didn't struggle, she didn't have any breathing problems, she just got fever and a cough, she lost her life in three or four days," Fawad told cricket.com.au from Adelaide, where he is currently undergoing mandatory 14-day quarantine.
"But this virus, it's bloody tough. I struggled, but I can't imagine how older people and poor people are struggling with this virus."
Fawad had not felt 100 per cent leading into his first match of the PSL but had his temperature taken pre-match and was deemed fine to play.
When his temperature was taken again after the game, it recorded above 38 degrees. He was immediately forced into isolation and a subsequent positive test ensured he would remain confined to his room for the ensuing weeks.
He estimated that he lost three-and-a-half kilograms within 10 days and suffered a headache so severe that he joked it felt like the "virus was taking a 2km time trial in my head".
Even after recovering, walking to the bathroom drained him of energy and it took him some time to muster the energy to eat or pray.
Fawad now says he is beginning to feel himself again since returning to Australia, the country where he attained citizenship in 2013 after seeking asylum.
Before leaving Pakistan earlier this month, he returned to Marghuz, the small village where he was born in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that runs along the Afghanistan border, to visit his mother's grave.
Fawad had planned to bring her out to Australia last year to stay with him and his wife, before the pandemic put paid to those hopes.
"I really wanted her to visit and spend some time in this beautiful country," he said. "My mum was both my mum and my dad, because my dad passed away when I was only one (year old). That love just belonged to mum.
"I did apply for her to come and visit me last year … but COVID came and borders closed. In October, COVID got her and took her from us.
"She never watched me playing cricket (in Australia), I really wanted her to come to the beautiful MCG and see me play in the Big Bash, or club cricket at Melbourne Uni so she could watch me with her own eyes, not on the telly.
"She was one of my biggest supporters.
"It's life, you can't control those things unfortunately. But I think she's in a better place and she's watching down on me."
Fawad can see the lights of Adelaide Oval from the window of his hotel room. He is completing his fifth quarantine period in less than a year and although that window only opens a few inches, he remains upbeat.
Watching a live stream of his former team Victoria play in the Marsh Sheffield Shield, he still feels a "tingle" in his fingers and an urge to bowl an extended spell.
When he is allowed out next week, Fawad will head home to Melbourne and hopes to play for Melbourne University if they reach the Premier Cricket semi-finals.
His recent ordeal has not diminished his appetite for his craft, which he now plies mainly on the global T20 circuit.
Fawad has his eye on potential engagements in the Sri Lanka, Canada and the Caribbean and while he will consider returning to Pakistan for the resumption of the PSL in June, he hopes to see stricter bio-security measures in place.
"I think the PSL and the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) should have done better," said Fawad. "I think they took it a bit easier (on restrictions) because they thought nothing was going to happen, but they should put in all the precautions in the near future when they rearrange the PSL."
The Pakistan Cricket Board said earlier this month that it will "look into the operational and logistical challenges (of the PSL's resumption) and revert to the franchise owners and stakeholders."
Fawad is out of contract with the Perth Scorchers but is hopeful of re-signing with the club ahead of BBL|11.
"I'm still very, very grateful because I'm playing cricket – that's what I love and I'm getting paid (for it)," he said.
"When I look around people are struggling to pay rent, their mortgages or even for food.
"If you look at it in that way, I'm still very grateful. You have to look at it that way, you have to always look at people living below you because I could have been in their spot as well.
"I am very lucky, even in this tough time."