You’re all familiar with his journey. And then when he became an Australian citizen in 2013 and played three ODIs and two T20Is the same year. And when he re-emerged two years later and was in line to make his Test debut on a Dominica track that had historically favoured spin. Instead, Australia punted on the part-time spin of Adam Voges, Michael Clarke and Steven Smith. Voges, who was named Man of the Match on debut in that match, and Clarke have now retired, but just like Randy Orton’s RKO, Fawad Ahmed, 37 next week, is still around and in the spotlight again.
At the start of 2018, he had been cut from Victoria’s central contracts list as teenager Tom O’Connell got the nod ahead of him. But the year ended in dramatic fashion, Victoria u-turning and recalling Fawad midway through their 50-over JLT Cup campaign. Fawad celebrated the return by sewing up Victoria’s title victory.
And that was his third title in as many months – Global T20 winner: check. CPL winner: check. JLT Cup winner: check. So on Christmas Eve after Fawad had spun Thunder to victory in the Sydney Derby, it was no surprise his former Thunder team-mate Mitchell McClenaghan tweeted
Said it before and will say it again. @bachaji23 is key to @cricketcomau success at the @ICC World Cup next year. #BBL08
— Mitchell McClenaghan (@Mitch_Savage) December 24, 2018
While Fawad is unlikely to be a World Cup bolter, he might not be a bad option to revisit in T20Is. That form, in the shortest format, has not just been title-winning, but world-beating and now on the verge of a homecoming of sorts, after he was drafted in by Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League. In this season’s BBL, he is the joint second-highest wicket-taker between overs 7 and 16, with ten wickets at an economy rate of 6.81.
Nobody has taken more wickets than Fawad’s 31 in the middle overs of the BBL in the past three years. And he’s done that at an excellent economy rate of 6.51.
Fawad was also the top wicket-taker in the middle overs during his maiden CPL stint with Trinbago Knight Riders and displayed particularly outstanding control over his variations on a dew-slicked Queen’s Park Oval pitch. He claimed 17 wickets between overs 7 and 16 at an economy rate of 6.35 and average of 13.82.
He was picked up by TKR as a replacement for Shadab Khan, away on national duty, after he had taken 14 wickets for the Vancouver Knights in Canada, only his team-mate Sheldon Cottrell had more wickets (16) than Fawad. Shadab was among TKR’s chief enforcers in the middle overs in 2017, picking up eight wickets at an incredible economy rate of 5.26. Could Fawad replicate Shadab’s heroics?
In fact, Fawad fared better in terms of wickets and added more strings to his bow. He also bowled in the Powerplay and later at the death for TKR, something he hasn’t done often for the Thunder in the BBL. In addition to being the leading wicket-taker in CPL 2018, he also had the third-best economy rate (for a minimum five overs bowled) and the second-best bowling average (for a minimum five overs bowled).
Fawad was readying for a stint in the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League before Victoria backflipped and handed him an upgraded contract. In the JLT final, Tasmania’s in-form batsman Ben McDermott smeared Fawad’s first three balls to the boundary. Fawad didn’t panic. He just went wide of the crease, dropped his pace, and slipped in a wrong’un to draw a top edge that had McDermott holing out to midwicket off the fifth ball.
“Yes, my form has been great,” Fawad told Sportsday, after that JLT win. “I came back later in the tournament (JLT Cup) and I had a great tournament in the Caribbean Premier League and we won that one as well. Before that in the Global T20 Canada, and I came in with massive confidence. I went for actually 17 runs in my first over here and Ben McDermott is in great form. There was a strong breeze from the south side and I was bowling against the wind. He got me in my first over but I tried to hold my nerve and go with my best ball. Luckily, I got him.”
That best ball is one of his many variations which make him so attractive as a T20 bowler. The wrong’un is often his go-to ball, but he can also bowl the topspinner, which slides on straighter and bounces more, the undercutter and a front-of-the-hand flipper.
His fizzing wrong’uns ensured Thunder owned the middle overs against their cross-town rivals. Introduced into the attack right after the Powerplay in the Sixers’ chase of 170, he rattled the stumps of both Jordan Silk and Daniel Hughes with googlies. In his last match against Perth Scorchers, he came in right after the Powerplay again and tested the Marsh brothers with them. One googly duped Shaun Marsh only for the catch to be dropped at deep midwicket.
And though he’s getting old, Fawad is at the peak of his powers and still agile in the field. In Thunder’s first meeting against the Scorchers this season, Fawad swooped in from short third man to backward point and nailed the stumps to run out Hilton Cartwright, prompting Callum Ferguson to exclaim on the mic: “We’ve found the fountain of youth!”
Who knows? A few more dips into that fountain in this season’s BBL and the PSL, and Fawad’s international career could yet stand revitalised.