‘All the skills are there’ – Ashton Agar eyes Test recall for India tour

Eyeing Australia’s tour of India early next year, Ashton Agar has started his preparation towards a potential long-awaited Test recall, confident he can shift between formats “quickly”.

Agar was a notable inclusion in the Prime Minister’s XI squad to play West Indies in Canberra in a four-day day-night first-class fixture starting on November 23. Back in Perth after Australia’s T20 World Cup exit, Agar hit the WACA nets in a bid to get reacquainted with the red ball.

“I just had a nice long bowl at the WACA, and faced the red ball again,” Agar told reporters on Thursday as part of Youth Focus, a leading provider of youth mental-health services in Western Australia, being announced as charity partner for the Perth Test. “I still have a desire to play red-ball cricket. I would love to be part of the India Test tour.”

The Prime Minister’s XI affair is effectively a warm-up for the visiting West Indies side ahead of the two-Test series which begins in Perth on November 30, but also presents opportunities for Australia’s fringe players.

Agar has been a regular member of Australia’s limited-overs squads over the years, and played in their victory over Sri Lanka in Perth at the T20 World Cup, where he was a late replacement for frontline spinner Adam Zampa, who had tested positive for Covid-19.

But his busy commitments in the limited-overs formats have caused Agar to be unavailable for Western Australia (WA) in the Sheffield Shield, with his last appearance being in April 2021. He has a middling first-class record overall averaging 41.28 and striking at 80.7 with the ball.

Despite his suspect red ball record, Agar remains an intriguing prospect for Australia’s hierarchy who are keen for the left-arm spinner to bowl more in first-class cricket with the tour of India looming.

“I think all the skills are there. I have enough experience to shift formats quickly,” he said while revealing he might play in WA’s Shield match against Queensland starting December 1. “But getting your body right and building your bowling loads up to bowl for a long period of time… it’s just a different battle.

“I’ve had a couple of decent side strains recently, which I have to be a little wary of. So just taking that extra care on your body and trying to be as professional as you can is probably the key going forward.”

Agar, who famously scored 98 from No.11 on Test debut during the 2013 Ashes, played the last of his four Tests in 2017, although was considered a strong chance to play in the mid-year series in Sri Lanka until he suffered a significant side strain.

“They (matches in India) were my favourite games to watch growing up. Games happen quickly. The ball spins miles… if you bat well over there, you’ve batted really well”

Ashton Agar doesn’t want to miss out on playing in India

He won’t be playing in WA’s Shield match against South Australia at the WACA starting on Friday, but has been named in Australia’s ODI squad for the upcoming three-match series against England. And Agar said he was not perturbed by being somewhat pigeonholed as a white-ball specialist.

“The important thing is communication with the selectors,” he said. “They’ve been really good with me. The communication has been really open and really clear. If they wanted me to play more red-ball cricket, they would have given me the opportunity. That’s exactly what they are doing now with the Prime Minister XI game, and maybe another Shield game after that.”

If he does end up playing in India, it would be a dream come true for Agar, whose only previous Test experience in the subcontinent was in Bangladesh, also the last time he played a Test.

“They (matches in India) were my favourite games to watch growing up,” Agar said. “Games happen quickly. The ball spins miles… if you bat well over there, you’ve batted really well. To play over there and hopefully play really well is kind of the goal.”

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