The term ‘mystery spinner’ conjures up all sorts of problems in an Englishman’s mind. There’s Shane Warne’s famous Gatting-ball; there’s Paul Adams doing his frog-in-a-blender impression; there’s Murali’s unplayable doosra; and then there’s the biggest conundrum of all: thousands don’t understand how the hell Johan Botha gets away with that action.
However, us Poms reckon the Aussies have really pushed the envelope on this one – an envelope containing a fast-tracked visa application, of course.
To most England fans, Fawad Ahmed is a total and utter mystery. Until recently we hadn’t even heard of the bloke, let alone seen him bowl. Now we hear he’s being groomed for a key role in the Ashes. Is this a cunning plan, or just plain desperation?
A quick perusal of Fawad’s stats on cricinfo reveals he’s 31 years old and has played just 14 first class games. Now I’ve heard of late developers, but this one takes the biscuit.
‘But he’s got an amazing life-story’ I hear you say. ‘His personal circumstances robbed him of the best years of his career’. Err, did they? If he was so remarkable in his youth, surely he would’ve torn up trees in Pakistan’s domestic tournaments? And the personal threats against his wellbeing would’ve come from illegal bookmakers, not the Taliban.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter what he did (or didn’t) do in his twenties; it’s how good he is now that really matters. To be lined up for the Ashes squad after just a handful of games for Victoria means he must be something pretty special, right?
Wrong. Fawad has taken just 40 first class wickets at an average of 33. He has taken five wickets in an innings just twice, and failed to take a wicket against the mighty Ireland the other day.
Is that English bottom lips I hear trembling in the distance? No, it’s raucous cackling I’m afraid. Fawad’s first class average is worse than Ian Salisbury’s (literally).
Because we’re a neurotic bunch in England – we’re still scarred by memories of Matthew Elliott and Greg Blewett carving up English bowlers who weren’t fit to be called pie chuckers in the 1990s – we don’t want to jinx this too much:
If we say Fawad will have absolutely no impact and become as much of a liability as Mitchell Johnson – who, interestingly enough, was Australia’s best bowler by miles in the Champions Trophy – he’s sure to take fifty wickets in five tests and win the Ashes singlehandedly. However, you can’t blame us for being a tad cynical.
Yes, we know Nathan Lyon isn’t exactly the second coming of Tim May. Yes, we know Steve Smith’s legspin has gone backwards faster than the Wallabies’ scrum is likely to retreat in the test series against The Lions. But is this 31 year old asylum seeker really the best you can do?
Not long ago the Biltong Munchers claimed a Pakistani legspinner as their own. They declared he was the missing ingredient – a man with magic in his fingers who could ruin batsmens’ careers with a mere flick of his wrist. His name was Imran Tahir. He was crap.
Imran Tahir has taken 673 first class wickets at an average of 26. He has taken 5 wickets in an innings 47 times. Fawad Ahmed has a touching life story, but he would kill for career statistics like that.