SYDNEY- Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey and refugee Fawad Ahmed have all been offered new contracts by Cricket Australia, but only one is considered any chance to play in next month's Ashes.

Despite repeated calls for the two veterans, who retired from international cricket last summer, to return for the 10-Test home and away series against England, only the Pakistan-born Ahmed is any real likelihood of joining the squad.

Ponting, who scored 192 in his debut for Surrey over the weekend, had fired speculation last week with a light-hearted observation in an interview with The Daily Mail, but later shot down any notion of a recall.

Hussey also made it clear recently he would not play international cricket again. The leg-spinning Ahmed's chances of playing in the Ashes hinge on legislation before the parliament which allows his citizenship to be fast-tracked. The plan is for the Pakistan-born 31-year-old to be in England later this month with a new passport so he can play the last Australia A game, then the tour matches with the Ashes squad. Ahmed, Ponting and Hussey have each been offered one of seven marketing contracts by Cricket Australia that will allow them to dip into a $3.15 million pool set aside for the purpose. Ahmed already has a three-year contract with Cricket Victoria, while Hussey and Ponting have rejected state deals.

Specific marketing contracts were introduced when the Argus report recommended the reduction of the number of central player contracts. Under the old arrangement, 27 players were on the payroll, but last year there were only 17, so this was supplemented by 10 marketing contracts.

This year, 20 central and seven marketing contracts will be issued. Ahmed will be offered one of those.

The players are paid for every commercial appearance they make out of the money which comes from the player payment pool. The other contracted players can also earn this money for any promotional work, advertisements or public appearances they make.

Ponting and Hussey will be used to market the Big Bash League and both have been encouraged to move to Melbourne and Sydney teams as CA and the new broadcast rights holder, the Ten Network, want to promote the games in the major cities.

Hussey is set to leave the Perth Scorchers and join Sydney's underperforming Thunder in a bid to boost its profile. Ponting, who recently bought a $10m mansion in Melbourne and is shifting his family from Sydney, is expected to leave the Hobart Hurricanes and join the Melbourne Stars to give it a publicity boost.

Ten has agreed to pay $100m over the next five years for the rights to the Twenty20 tournament and is keen that the Sydney and Melbourne franchises thrive as those two cities guarantee ratings and advertising revenue.

The Ahmed move is part of cricket's drive to promote a multicultural image after it was slammed for being "pale, male and stale" in marketing research. When his refugee status was initially rejected, CA chief executive James Sutherland and a number of cricket heavyweights pleaded his case and the initial rejection was overturned.

The organisation has worked with the government to get a revised section of the citizenship act which would allow Ahmed to qualify for next month's Ashes series, otherwise he would have had to fulfil the usual waiting period and would not have been available until the fifth Test.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor did not mention the cricketer by name when he introduced the changes in parliament last week, but the bill, drafted with the assistance of the opposition, clears the way for the leg-spinner to be given a passport more quickly than usual. NSW teenage bowler Gurinder Sandhu has also been offered a marketing contract with an eye to his parent's Indian heritage.