Western Australia's left-arm spinner Ashton Agar was taking questions in this video interview released by Cricket Australia. Here's the interview in full.
"Well, hopefully, you'd hope to be playing in some competition. The last couple of years, I've been over in England, playing some T20 county cricket. But at this stage of the pre-season, if you are with your home state, generally it is the physical focus at the start mixed in with a bit of skills and gradually building that towards the start of the season. We'll start with our physical testing which will be our strength testing, our 2K time trials which no one's looking forward to at all. It seems that everyone is in very good nick after the break. Everyone's logging their runs on Instagram and all their weight sessions and stuff. So I'm sure the boys will be looking forward to getting stuck into it."
On what restrictions might look like and if it'll be hard
Certainly going to have to be creative and there will be certain guidelines that will be put in place - to what extent, I'm not sure yet. I know that when we're in the gym, we'll have to wear gloves. Obviously, all the equipment would have been sanitized. So I'm sure every precaution will be taken to and sure that the health of the players and staff as well. But like I said, it will be small groups and then we hopefully build towards the start of whenever cricket (happens) maybe.
On what he needs to do to get back into the Test scheme of things as the second spinner for Australia
It all starts with strong performances in red-ball cricket. It's as simple as that. I've been there before which is a great advantage in that capacity because I know what Test cricket feels like. I was there when I was 19 and then again when I was 23 or 24 in Bangladesh and felt like I did a really good job, especially in those conditions. My game is in a really good place. Obviously finished the season really strongly with the T20 games over in South Africa. I just felt really consistent. To play consistent Test cricket, you need to have a really good idea of how you go about your bowling for a long period of time. Like I said, you have to practice that in your games day-in day-out in Shield cricket - take wickets, put yourself in the best position you can be to be the second spinner at the moment because Nathan Lyon is the best spinner in the world in my eyes, especially in red-ball cricket. So just to put yourself in a strong position to be the second spinner is the key.
On finding the balance between limited-overs internationals and domestic red-ball cricket
It is difficult, especially when there is a lot of white-ball cricket on. Probably comes down to your preparation. Having a really solid foundation and a really solid base, that's what gets you through in red-ball cricket and then if you prepare really well because you can do that when you're training for white-ball cricket and when you're playing because a lot of the time, you're under a lot of pressure in white-ball cricket to bowl the ball in the right spot. Otherwise, it gets banged over your head for six a lot more than it does in Test cricket. If you prepare well and then when you do go back to red-ball cricket, you take wickets, don't go for too many runs - it's pretty much as simple as that. But it can be tough, especially for someone like Zamps (Adam Zampa). I saw that he spoke about not having played a lot of red-ball cricket and probably didn't get enough opportunity in South Australia to play enough games as a very good spinner. So it's about taking those opportunities when they come.
If he's ever thought of playing for New South Wales at the SCG where he might get assistance as a spinner
Yeah, well, obviously playing on responsive wickets over in the eastern states when it definitely does turn a bit more. The wickets are a bit slower and lower. Certainly would help a spin bowler. Very different to playing at the WACA where it's quite hard and fast, traditionally a fast bowler's wicket. It can be tough work for the spinners, but I feel like I've done a good job over here. Yeah, my stats probably won't be the same as they were if I was in the eastern states, but I love playing here. I actually just love Perth - it's a beautiful place, it's always sunny, it's about 23°C outside today and warm. So there are a number of factors why I just haven't considered leaving and cricket-wise, I get great opportunity in WA (Western Australia), I'm fully supported and backed in here and I love the team that I play with. Reasons bigger than cricket that I just really like being here as well. I'm pretty happy with where I am.
On experiences of playing county cricket in England
It’s one of the best things I’ve done for my T20 bowling, because it was really tough work. The guys over in England play spin really well. I would say there’s a lot of good players of spin in every team over there, especially because they hit to areas where you can’t defend. A lot of them can hit in the three spots where spinners don't want to get to hit - they sweep, they reverse sweep, and they hit over cover. Each time you're hit into one of those areas, your adjustment is one of those other shots. So learning how to bowl to guys who are very good players of spin, who can score all around the ground was important, especially going into big international series. It was nice to just learn and pick the brains of a couple of guys and work out how to combat that and just develop as a player. Also, the added pressure of going somewhere as an overseas player, that’s a nice thing to feel. You feel like you have to try and stand up and help win games, lend some experience to some of the younger guys at those clubs and just to immerse yourself in a different culture. As a player and a person, you can’t help but grow.
On his preference: Middlesex or Warwickshire?
You can't make me have to pick, can you? I’ll tell you one thing though is that nothing beats a Lord’s lunch. That's what I will say, the food there is unbeatable and I think everyone will agree with that.
If the home wicket at either county helped him more than the other
Look, to be fair on their day, they are both quite dry and definitely assist spin. Both iconic grounds around the world, obviously Lord's has such a beautiful history and it's a beautiful place to play cricket. But Edgbaston as well, it's a totally different crowd, a lot of history at that ground, especially between Australia and England and some history that has turned in our favour recently. So it was nice to experience both.
On any potential contract for another season with either county
No, I haven't spoken about it at all to be honest. I wasn't really planning on going back to the UK this winter, I was keen just to get my body in a really good place, to get myself in the best condition to try and play a long hopefully international summer. But obviously with COVID-19, that wouldn't be possible anyway. In the future, I'd say yeah, it's something I'd definitely like to do.
On the possibility of county cricket next winter
Yeah, I would say so. If everything is possible going back and playing, especially T20 cricket. It's a lot of fun going and playing T20 cricket over there. It's really enjoyable. That's what I'm keen on doing. Haven't given too much thought to red-ball cricket in England as of yet, but maybe later in my career, that's an option.
On the World Cup, what have you guys been told and how do you prepare yourself about something that has no certainty in time at the moment?
I probably know as much about the World Cup as you do which is not a lot. It’s hard to predict anything in this climate and it pretty much seems to be a day by day process which is totally understandable because there is just so much to manage. Obviously it is an unpredictable environment but in terms of preparation, you just have to stay ready. Your job as a professional cricketer and an international cricketer is that you always have to be ready because opportunities come and go and you really need to take them when they present themselves because it is a really tough environment to stay in if you are not performing all the time. It is up to the individual. We are all old enough and experienced enough now to know what we have to do to stay ready.
Mitchell Marsh spoke after the announcement of contracts and he spoke about the uncertainty around pay at that time. Is that something that has concerned you as well or something you sought clarity on over the last few weeks?
It is obviously a really nice feeling to know that you have a Cricket Australia contract. That is a wonderful feeling but there is uncertainty about how that looks at this stage. The ACA and Cricket Australia I am sure...we have an MoU that has things set in stone especially during a pandemic like this. So, whatever happens, I am sure the players and Cricket Australia will be on board and it will be ok.
How much of a difference has bowling coach S Sriram made in your bowling and success in international cricket? Have you been in touch with him during the lockdown?
Oh, I love Sri. He is a great bloke, No.1. He has an incredible cricket brain and he has an ability to see things in people that no-one else would see...subtle things in your action and he understands very quickly what makes you work as a bowler. Sri and I have connected really well ever since we met, probably in 2015 in India on an Australia A tour. He has been extremely helpful not only in my bowling but my batting as well because he was a world-class batter for India too. Bowling in different conditions, he obviously has experienced a lot of cricket in India, on different types of pitches, how different types of batters play. He just provides a different perspective and I love that. He is always challenging me, asking me to try different things and just encouraging me to grow as a player all the time. To have someone like that in your corner is invaluable.
How much do you look up to or compare yourself with India's left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja? What is the key to success in the subcontinent for you?
There is no secret that I look up to Jadeja. I made that known after I got the hat-trick in South Africa. I just like the way he plays his cricket, it is just as simple as that. He goes out there, backs himself under every situation and clearly loves the spotlight. And I think growing up that's how I enjoyed watching the game. I wanted to see guys take the game on, put on a bit of a show and just have a great time out there. And he looks like he enjoys his cricket all the time, especially on the bigger stages. In terms of how to go about your cricket in India, as left-arm spinner hitting the stumps all the time, hitting a consistent length that you can't get hit over your head and mixing up your pace from there. Something he (Jadeja) does really well and something I feel I am doing nicely too at the moment.
Can you just explain the psyche of a spinner playing first-class cricket in Australia right now. Is there a blueprint to what you need to do to become that second spinner? Is it just about stats or something else?
It is a combination of everything especially on wickets that haven't deteriorated. Day 1, day 2 in Australia it's very much a pace-dominated game so as a spinner you need to be able to come on and certainly dry up an end and take a wicket when you can. That's been my role a lot of the times in WA, especially first innings is to hold up an end as best I can so that we can rotate the fast bowlers through, give them a break and if I get a wicket or two, it's a real bonus. And then obviously when you get into conditions maybe over the other side of the country, where it starts to spin that's where you should take wickets. Over my career so far I feel like I have done that well. Bowling at the WACA can be tough work but it has certainly made me a better bowler because you have to be very accurate and very consistent otherwise you certainly will get punished.
The fact that you are playing regular white-ball cricket now and you are doing well there and you are around the team setup, can you take that into your red-ball cricket, just the confidence that comes from playing international cricket?
Definitely. That's the No.1 thing that sets people apart in international cricket. Guys who get to that level, their skills have to be there because that's why they are there. To succeed at that level, you have to get over those initial fears you have of being on a world stage, being judged all the time, a lot of eyes on you. Once you enjoy that spotlight a bit, enjoy that pressure, bouncing back after getting hit for a six and try to get a guy out all the time, that gives you a lot of confidence. Then going back into state cricket, you are more in that attacking mindset. You are looking for wickets a lot of the time, you are using your experience, you understand how better players play the game and it definitely helps going to red-ball cricket.
What did you learn about bowling in India from your last trip in January? Where does that 2023 ODI World Cup sit on your list of goals?
I really enjoyed bowling in India this time. It's probably the first time I have been there when I felt that I was just looking to get them out, and have a big impact on the game as a spinner. It is easy to go there and almost go into damage control and think, oh, I'll just get out of this spell with not too much damage runs-wise and not look for wickets. But to go there and try to attack was really positive and you do that by consistently bowling that good length and try to spin the ball as much as you can because you do get a bit of assistance from the wickets. Especially against the best players in the world of spin bowling, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, the list goes on and it can be pretty intimidating. But you know if you can bowl well against them, you can bowl well against anyone. I really enjoyed bowling over with Zamps (Adam Zampa). What we really spoke about was adapting quickly to the wickets we were presented with and working out the best pace and best line and try and get them out from there. It is really important to have a plan to take wickets all the time because that is ultimately the best way to stem the flow of runs.
The 2023 World Cup is not really on my list at the moment. I haven't looked at it at all if I am being completely honest. It's certainly there and of course, it is a goal but in the meantime, I just need to keep playing well whenever I get the chance to play. It has been tough, I have been in and out that sort of how my journey has felt like in white-ball cricket for Australia. But I feel like I keep bouncing back and I keep improving every time I come back so hopefully I get a good run at it like I am at the moment, keep putting the performances on the board. It will be great to be there with Zamps because I feel we are forming a really good partnership out in the middle.
How impressed are you with how Wes Agar’s game came on last summer? Have you guys made up since you copped that ball on the face?
I am so proud of him. I hate playing against him because he is so good. At the moment, he is the bowler I don't want to face. Wes' ability to bowl long spells under 2 an over in the first innings of Shield games this year was incredible at some serious pace as well. That is what sets him apart, consistently taking wickets in all formats of the game. As a young fast bowler, it is probably easier to run in and bowl as fast as you can and probably not have that control but his ability this year to run in, bowl as fast as he could, with excellent control, as a very young player was amazing. That certainly got a lot of people at him and he was able to handle that pressure really nicely.
If you guys ever talked about playing together for Australia, is something discussed over the dinner table or in the backyard?
Yeah of course, growing up, that's what we always like about. That's what we used to pretend we were doing in the front yard or the backyard whenever we played. Now to be playing Big Bash cricket against each other, state cricket against each other, the ultimate goal one day would be to play for Australia with each other and with the way he's going at the moment, I can't help but see him playing for Australia in the near future.
Just wondering, when you were talking about the pay before and the uncertainty around that. Are you a bit confused or wonder, why Cricket Australia is in this position, given that really at the moment you haven't missed out on any cricket decision yet?
Well, I'm sure if I were to speak on management of money and funds and I'd be way out of my depth, I'm not educated enough in that area to make any fair comment at all to be honest. But like I said before, the ACA, Cricket Australia and the players all seem to be on a really good page at the moment. I think we're going to move forward really well. And the other stuff, well, I have to let the people who are educated enough to make those decisions, so, yes, I wouldn't be able to give you a strong enough answer on that.
What about Cameron Green. He's one of the most talked about uncapped players in the country at the moment. From your experience of playing alongside him, what do you think his potential is for there in the near future?
Greeny (Cameron Green) is an incredible player. And the scary thing is that he didn't even bowl last year. For a young guy to come in and handle pressure situations as a standalone batter and make big hundreds and important contributions in big games. His ability and mental ability well beyond these years in cricket. So I can say, he's only going to get better and better with the bat and then with the ball when he's in full flight, Greeny can bowl over 140ks and he can swing the new ball. He’s 2-metres tall and to have someone like that in your team who's got raw pace can play as a specialist batter or a bowler. That's some pretty scary talent.
So it's just about him getting his body right and keeping his mind strong because he's going to be under some pressure when people start talking about him. People already are, and he's handling that really nicely. So we're very proud of him. And I think he's just going to continue on a nice path.
What the chat's been amongst the players. If you've got a WhatsApp group or some sort of group where you all keep in touch just about the upcoming fixtures and just what the general sort of feel of the group is?
Well, yeah, we do have a WhatsApp group, and this is pretty funny, to be honest. Like, a lot of guys are just posting their workouts that they're doing and how far they're running and how many weights they're lifting. You know, David Warner has been on fire and trying to do the best he can to keep up with a few of the boys. You know, everyone's addicted to that Strava app at the moment, so but that's pretty much the extent of it. We haven't talked at all about scheduling. We probably don't know a whole heap about the schedule. Like I said earlier, we know that as much as you guys do, to be fair. And we all sort of understand that. But it's our job to be ready. It's going to be creative, whatever solution. You know, the cricketing world comes up with and it's going to take Total Buy-In from everyone. So we just have to be ready when that comes.
Your views on David's (Warner) Tiktok videos
I don’t have Tiktok and I’m glad I don’t but Davey (Warner) is certainly making the most of it. You know, he's bringing a lot of humor and light-heartedness to this pretty tough situation, making a lot of people happy. I think he's got over a million followers on Instagram. So I'm sure he's putting a lot of smiles on faces. And it looks like he's having a great time at home with his wife and kids. That's what makes him happy. He should keep doing it.