MERRIVALE import Ziggy Arshad hopes to use his summer in the south-west as a launching pad for selection at an English county club.
But before hopes of representing Yorkshire or Durham can materialise, the paceman has a more pressing assignment — the Western Waves Festival of Cricket.
Arshad, 26, is among a 13-man Warrnambool and District Cricket Association (WDCA) Gold squad for the Twenty20 tournament at Hamilton this weekend.
The Festival of Cricket is the first of a host of representative tournaments the WDCA will contest and which the Englishman could be in line for.
Arshad said he was excited to be in Australia, having previously spent time Down Under as part of the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy in 2010-11.
He said he was encouraged by the standard he had seen in the WDCA Twenty20 tournament, despite it being lower than what he experienced in England.
The English summer saw Arshad plying his trade for Minor Counties Cricket Association club Bedfordshire, one tier below the County Championship.
“I wouldn’t say the standard is as good as Minor Counties but, compared to Home Counties, it’s not far off,” he said.
“It is pretty good. Every team has got a good XI, they’ve got a mixture of bowlers, batters, guys who can play cricket. It’s pretty competitive.”
Playing cricket in Warrnambool has given Arshad a chance to build his fitness and strength during the English off-season.
“I’d be stuck in the snow (back home). It’s definitely going to be an experience for me,” he said. He arrives as one of the best-credentialed cricketers to play in the WDCA.
Just a week before leaving Europe, Arshad was touring Italy with a Club Cricket Conference squad.
His cricket resume also includes a stint as a nets bowler for the Pakistan national team before the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
“I went there to play club cricket and was bowling in the nets and got picked up by (coach) Dav Whatmore,” he said.
“He told me to come along. I got involved with Wasim (Akram) and worked on my bowling. I’m bowling much quicker.”
But his arrival in Warrnambool came with an early setback.
As a Muslim, Arshad found himself struggling to find food which adhered to Sharia law.
“Not many people here knew about halal meat,” he said, before acknowledging the support of his Merrivale clubmates. “The club found someone who did halal meat. They hooked me up with that.”
Arshad said he hoped to trial with a County Championship squad upon returning to England.
“I wouldn’t mind going to somewhere like Yorkshire or Durham,” he said.
“I know a few players at Yorkshire and Durham. I’d like to go with mates.”
WDCA has two squads — Gold and Green — in division one at the Western Waves Festival of Cricket.
Brierly-Christ Church batsman Nathan Murphy is at the helm of the Gold squad, while Nestles’ Geoff Williams has the reins of Green.
The two squads clash at Tarrington Recreation Reserve at 9.30am today.
South West Cricket and Hamilton and District Cricket Association are also in the top grade.
The division one final will be played at Clem Young Oval at 1.30pm tomorrow.