Rebuilt Agar's bizarre Ashes preparation
CRICKET: He's played just one red-ball match since September but Ashton Agar believes "the time is now” for him to make the most of another Test recall.
The 24-year-old left-arm tweaker is firmly in line to force his way into the Australian XI for the fifth and final Ashes Test of the summer, with selectors mulling over whether to pick two spinners for the traditionally spin-friendly SCG Test.
Agar, described on Saturday as a "work in progress” by former Test spinner Kerry O'Keeffe, has played just one Sheffield Shield game this summer, having struggled with a broken finger suffered during a one-day tour of India in September.
That one match against Victoria, which came on a similarly lifeless MCG pitch to the one which has been slammed in the fallout from the Boxing Day Test draw, is the only red-ball cricket Agar has played since featuring in September's Bangladesh tour.
He also missed the entire domestic one-day tournament, meaning his preparation for a maiden Test match on home soil has been bowling 12 overs across three Big Bash League games, where he's been economical and returned figures of 1-20, 0-18 and 0-21.
He believes the high- octane pressure of the BBL is the ideal preparation for Test cricket, despite the two formats being well far removed from each other as is possible.
"That's the biggest advantage of the BBL; the pressures and crowds,” Agar said yesterday.
"You've got batters trying to take you down, you have to bowl really well and have good control of your length and variations.
"I actually think it's really good preparation for a Test match.
"That may sound funny but there are certain things when you step into a Test environment that are really similar between BBL and Test cricket.”
Agar is best remembered for his extraordinary Test debut, when he was plucked from obscurity by coach Darren Lehmann for the opening match of the 2013 Ashes and hit a record-breaking 98 - the most ever by a No.11.
Agar insists he is a different player and person to the 19-year-old who burst onto the radar of every cricket fan on the planet.
And he doesn't waste any time looking back on his whirlwind entrance to the Test arena.
"No, the memories don't come flooding back. I don't look back on that too much,” Agar said.
"They're great memories but I've certainly moved forward since then and I feel like I've improved as a player,” he said.
Working with Australian team spin consultants John Davison and Sridharan Sriram in recent years has helped Agar rebuild his action, building his confidence and refining the way he approaches the game.
"I've grown up a lot since (the 2013 Ashes). Life experience and cricket experience, as anyone does,” Agar said.
"I'm 24 now so I'm still reasonably young, but you can't really say that anymore. The time is now and I'm just going to give it a good crack.”
As for whether Agar will be parachuted into the Australian XI, the young all-rounder was remaining tight-lipped, explaining he hadn't been given any indication from Lehmann.
The Sydney Test starts on Thursday, January 4.