KESHA WEST, PRESENTER: Australia has a new spin bowler in its cricket squad. Just days ahead of the highly anticipated Ashes Test series in England.
But Fawad Ahmed is no ordinary cricketer. The Pakistani-born leg spinner fled his homeland as a refugee after receiving death threats for his involvement with a women's rights group.
As little as three weeks ago the 31-year-old was facing possible deportation but the Australian Government intervened and fast tracked his citizenship.
Beverly O’Connor spoke to Fawad Ahmed at the Melbourne cricket ground.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: Fawad Ahmed thank you very much for talking to the ABC.
FAWAD AHMED, CRICKETER: No worries.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: Can you go back to your life in Pakistan. Give us a little sense of how you grew up, where you were educated, what did you do?
FAWAD AHMED: I belonged to a middle-class family. I had a really good time with my family, my father passed away when he was very young. My grandma grown us up really nicely. We are, brother and sister all very-well educated and belong to good family and being a normal Pakistani was like fanatic about cricket.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: Did you ever dream then you'd play for Pakistan internationally for example?
FAWAD AHMED: To be honest, cricket, that was a dream from the beginning. When I start playing proper cricket and performing well then I realise and then I adopt it as a profession. So definitely every single cricketer, I dream to play for Pakistan or international cricket. And it's going to be true somewhere else like in my different countries, now Australia's my country now, so I'm happy to be here and hopefully will get a chance to play here one day as well.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: I will ask you how you feel about that later on. Then you came to the decision of and it must've been a very difficult decision, to leave Pakistan?
FAWAD AHMED: To be honest it was really, really difficult decision at that time. Because leaving my family and my country and especially my relatives and friends, I played really good cricket at the same year, and that was actually you can say was the beginning of proper cricket up there, a really good first-class cricket. Took a lot of wickets. There was a prospect I can play on a higher level. But unfortunately, still the things are going really wrong. With law and order at that time terrorism was on the peak from last five or six years. And unfortunately, I have to leave my country.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: So you came to Australia and you were sponsored by a local cricket club and I guess you thought perhaps that was going to be you were going to play at a local level?
FAWAD AHMED: When I came here I just came here to I just came here for a safe life and just be a normal person. I never thought about that I'm going to play cricket at this level.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: How are you making do? How are you making a living and getting by?
FAWAD AHMED: It's really hard, you know. Especially for every immigrant coming from Pakistan, India or other countries, it's really hard tough here. When you start living here. Because I wasn't sure about the culture, the tradition, how is the life going, it's a completely different lifestyle here in Australia. But on the other side, I played really good cricket. I was training really hard, and you can say there was a coincidence when I came here for the level to the MCG, a couple of years ago and there was a session, a Bushrangers session. I asked Bushranger coach, Simon can I bowl in the net, and he said yeah you can come
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: But then when you did try to apply for residency t wasn't an easy journey. You got knocked back?
FAWAD AHMED: Honestly that was a really tough time for me especially the last August and September when they refused me into the RIT. That was just... I can't express myself. That was really tough time for me.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: Did you think of giving it all up and going back home?
FAWAD AHMED: No, I wasn't ready. That was the main problem. I wasn't ready to go back to home. And it was really tough for me. And I spoke to my club President Melbourne University cricket club President Derek and he really helped me throughout this journey, he came to me and he said, just wait, I have some good connections with cricket Australia, some people I know. He start discussing with the people my case. It was in bad condition. They refused me two times. There was no hope. But Cricket Australia, Cricket Victoria, they really supported me but if I was going on my own, that was really risky hat that time, because he will definitely refuse me and send me back.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: What do you make of the asylum seeker situation in Australia and the way that it divides the community? How does that make you feel as somebody who's gone through those struggles?
FAWAD AHMED: Being asylum seeker in Australia is really tough life. Because I've been through in the last three years was really tough for me. Until I got my residency last year. So was really hard, to find a job, if you don't have any skills and if you don't have any relatives or friends here, it's extremely really hard life here in Australia
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: Do you feel annoyed in a way, now you’ve been given special treatment because you've got this fantastic ability to play cricket?
FAWAD AHMED: At the end I'm happy because I stick with the cricket, I never gave up, I work hard and it's sorted now. I got some really good response from the community, from immigrants, mostly asylum seeker some of them. They all regard their citizenship or residency, but they're living here, but now they have hope. So they can do something in other communities or maybe in the cricket so you will definitely see some more good players and some more really talented people, they will really... um... play their role to develop Australia.
BEVERLY O’CONNOR: We wish you all the best. Good luck and we hope to see you in the Ashes and we hope to see you perform brilliantly. Thank you so much for your time.
FAWAD AHMED: Thank you, thank you very much.