When Australia picked Ashton Agar as the second spinner for the Sydney Test against South Africa, it seemed evident that the management saw the Western Australian playing a key part in India owing to the experience he possessed and the much-needed variety he brought to the fore, being a left-arm spinner. The reason for picking Agar at SCG, it seemed, was to give him valuable game time ahead of the India tour considering he hadn’t played Test cricket in nearly six years.
But when the series commenced, not only did Australia prefer off-spinner Todd Murphy over Agar for the first Test, they flew in another left-arm spinner, Matthew Kuhnemann, prior to the second game and played him over the Western Australian. Eventually, Agar was sent back home midway through the series so that he could participate in the latter stages of the Marsh Cup.
An incident like this has the potential to crush the confidence of a player, but having now been in the international scene for the best part of a decade, Agar understands the importance of ruthlessness.
Speaking in the aftermath of WA’s Marsh Cup triumph, where he starred with a five-fer, the 29-year-old opened up on the difficult few weeks in India and insisted that Cricket Australia made the right decision, considering his levels were nowhere near where they ideally should have been.
"I felt I wasn't bowling as well as I needed to be. It's a very clear direction for me now to just work on it and improve,” Agar said post the Marsh Cup final, reported ESPN Cricinfo.
"I harbour no ill will or ill feeling at all. I'm very well supported in that (Australian) camp and they've kept in constant communication with me, so it's all in a good place.
"I've been a professional cricketer for ten years now, so I'm far more resilient than when I started. It's a tough game, it's a ruthless environment, and that's how it should be because it's the pinnacle of the sport."
But despite the forgettable episode, and despite his rather underwhelming record with the ball at the first-class level, the 29-year-old hasn’t shut the door on red-ball cricket.
"I've always wanted to play as much as I could for Australia in whatever format that is and just take my opportunities when they come," he said.
"Playing for Australia in all forms, of course, I still want to do that. But my focus is just on cricket, you just play what's in front of you and you try and do as well as you can."
Unlike red-ball cricket, however, Agar is a gun in white-ball cricket and is an integral part of Australia’s squads in both ODIs and T20s. He is, of course, second choice behind Adam Zampa in both formats but with there being a realistic chance of Australia playing two specialist spinners in the XI come the 50-over World Cup, Agar is looking forward to the mega event.
"Zamps is entrenched as the white-ball spinner. It all depends what we're doing - playing two spinners or just the one," Agar said.
"If I do play, I usually bat at eight and try to get my ten overs out. I'm certainly looking forward to the World Cup.
"I don't have a lot of cricket coming up. I've chucked my name in the ring for The Hundred... I would like to play cricket in the winter. But the next big target is the World Cup."