Steve Waugh believes Fawad Ahmed can be a secret weapon for Australia in this year’s Ashes series.
Pakistan-born legspinner Ahmed earned a call up into the squad for the Test tours of the West Indies and England after a standout Sheffield Shield campaign.
The 33-year-old took 48 wickets across the domestic summer, including 8-89 in the Shield final.
“He’s a real talent,” said former Australian skipper Waugh.
“In my mind, he can be a world-class bowler.
“I saw him bowl one ball in one of his first games … and I knew he had something special.
“He’s going to be a real asset to Australian cricket, no doubt.
“Other teams would not have seen him, so he’ll have that surprise element. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a very good Ashes series.”
Speaking at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai, Waugh said Ahmed had great control and didn’t bowl too many loose balls, making life easier for both captain Michael Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann.
“He’ll be up to the task of playing Test cricket, I’ve got no doubt,” he added.
“He’ll slot in that squad no problems. They all know each other well, there’s a lot of support staff around, including Darren Lehmann, and he seems to feel comfortable in the Australian squad which is important.”
Waugh, the last Australian captain to win an Ashes series in England, said last month’s World Cup triumph would have given the side plenty of confidence.
But the biggest revelation, he believed, was the emergence of Mitchell Starc.
“That’s a big thing for Australia,” he said.
“We’ve got so many bowlers at our disposal that we’re capable of winning every Test match because we can take 20 wickets.
“But I think Starc will go to that next level in Test cricket as well.
“I think we’ve got the best young group of quicks we may have ever had in Australian cricket.
“And if they all get fit, and guys like Ryan Harris and Peters Siddle are around those young quicks, then we’re going to take 20 wickets.”
Waugh said a whitewash would be a hard task, but “I certainly wouldn’t be backing England right now”.