Fawad Ahmed: To wear or not to wear?

Blog by: Yazad

Fawad Ahmed receiving his cap from George Bailey (Getty Images)

Fawad Ahmed. Fawad who?

You mean the leg-spinner who fled from Pakistan, was granted asylum in Australia, became a net bowler, graduated to Shield Cricket and was eventually fast tracked into the national team as Australia’s spinning saviour?

Yes, that Fawad Ahmed.

His story is a few poisoned apples short of a fairy tale. At least it was.

The short version is this; Cricket Australia asked Ahmed if he as a Muslim, would be comfortable wearing the Victoria Bitter logo on his kit. Ahmed said that he would not, Cricket Australia acquiesced and a personalized kit without the said logo was handed to him.

The furore began when he made his international debut for Australia; in the face of intense media scrutiny and cameras everywhere, it quickly came to light that Ahmed was not wearing the logo.

Alas, what chance did he have? It began with an innocent enough newspaper article observing that the logo was absent, and ended with former Australian batsman Doug Walters saying “if he doesn’t want to wear the team gear, he should not be part of the team. Maybe if he doesn’t want to be paid, that’s okay.”

He was backed up by former rugby international David Campese, “Doug Walters tells Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed: if you don’t like the VB uniform, don’t play for Australia. Well said Doug. Tell him to go home.”

In between all that, racism reared its ugly head, with an uncalled for and frankly disgusting and despicable parody twitter account speculating that the logo had been replaced with the logo of ‘a major brand of explosives.’ All through this, Cricket Australia has staunchly stood by Ahmed, as they should, especially as it was them who asked Ahmed if he would wear the logo, even before he had been picked.

It is worth noting that when Hashim Amla asked to be exempted from wearing the logo of an alcohol sponsor, he was lauded for his courage and praised for standing up in what he believed. There is one major difference though; Hashim Amla is a South African by birth, Fawad Ahmed is a Pakistani who has Australian citizenship.

There is a feeling that Australian cricket seems to need Ahmed more than he needs them. They believe he is the next big spinning sensation back home, the W word has been dropped a couple of times as well. Cricket Australia fast- tracked him into the team, Cricket Australia asked him if he would be comfortable wearing a sponsor’s logo even before he was picked, and Cricket Australia got the government to tweak some legislation to speed up his citizenship.

All this can be readily explained -they clearly saw greatness in him. Pakistan cricket may never recover from the loss of somebody who had played as many as 10 first class matches. Fawad Ahmed could well turn out to be ‘The Avengers’ of cricket, lots of hype, but nothing to write home about. If that is indeed the case, Cricket Australia is going to end up looking more stupid than a walrus playing the violin.

In doing all that they have, the most fundamental aspect of team sport has been ignored – nobody is bigger than the team. You are supposed to earn a place in the team, fight and claw your way to the top, no freebies and absolutely no guarantees. So far, Ahmed has been given a free pass; if cricket were an auction, he would be the ugly vase and Cricket Australia the eccentric millionaire who absolutely had to have it, no matter what the cost.

Certainly, Ahmed is entitled to his beliefs. But it is worth noting that Usman Khawaja, an Australian Muslim did not object to wearing the logo. Perhaps Ahmed and Cricket Australia need to be reminded that he needs Australia more than Australia needs him, he may be an Australian citizen, but he isn’t an Australian.

Perhaps Walters and Campese do have a point. But last time I checked, this was cricket, not the United Nations, let’s leave race out of it, shall we?

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