FORMER asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed is expected to make his Australian domestic debut on Wednesday night as part of Melbourne Renegades' strategy of overcoming the loss of star import Marlon Samuels.
A negative medical report about the severity of the eye injury Samuels suffered when struck by a Lasith Malinga bouncer on Sunday night extinguished any chance of the West Indies all-rounder returning for the Big Bash League finals.
The Renegades moved swiftly to sign a replacement international player: 24-year-old Englishman Alex Hales. The towering batsman, who has played 14 Twenty20 internationals, is due to arrive in Australia on Wednesday morning. To be eligible for the Renegades' finals campaign, he must play in their final regular-season match, away to the Sydney Sixers at the SCG later that day.
While Hales will be a direct top-order replacement for Samuels, he does not bowl. Given off-spinner Samuels ranked in the league's top 10 for economy rate, the Renegades are likely to select an additional bowler - leg-spinner Ahmed - especially given they will host the first semi-final next Tuesday irrespective of the result against the Sixers.
Ahmed, 30, from Pakistan, was granted a permanent Australian visa late last year after intervention by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who had been lobbied by cricket officials.
Ahmed's encouraging performances for Melbourne University in Victorian Premier Cricket earned him a BBL contract, and he was on the cusp of selection for the Renegades at the start of the season before being trumped by Aaron O'Brien, one of the league's form spinners.
Renegades coach Simon Helmot said the absences of Samuels and captain Aaron Finch (ODI duty) weakened their spin depth and could necessitate a reshaping of the squad, although he would not confirm Ahmed would be a beneficiary.
Ahmed told Fairfax Media last month his end to 2012, which included a stint as a net bowler for the Australian Test team in addition to his visa approval and BBL deal, seemed ''like a fairytale''.
''I'm looking forward to the Big Bash League and when I get a chance … I'll definitely try my best to perform outstandingly, and to look to [create more opportunities] for my future cricket,'' he said.
Renegades opener Alex Doolan also injured his ankle on Sunday while middle-order expert Ben Rohrer, a likely captain in Finch's absence, missed the win with a leg injury.
Helmot said the decision on the line-up would be delayed until as late as possible. ''I don't want to place any risk on them by playing them, but they're both very determined to play,'' he said.
If one or both of those players are ruled out it could prompt a recall for Daniel Harris.
The Sixers have lost two players to ODI duty: captain Brad Haddin and batsman Steve Smith.
TEAMS - SIXERS (from): Moises Henriques (c), Luke Feldman, Josh Hazlewood, Daniel Hughes, Josh Lalor, Brett Lee, Michael Lumb, Nic Maddinson, Ian Moran, Steve O'Keefe, Sachithra Senanayake, Dan Smith, Dominic Thornely.
RENEGADES (from): Fawad Ahmed, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Alex Hales, Daniel Harris, Michael Hill, Muthiah Muralidaran, Peter Nevill, Aaron O'Brien, Darren Pattinson, Nate Rimmington, Ben Rohrer, Will Sheridan.