Australia in India 2012-13 February 15, 2013

Ashton Agar in frame for India Tests


Ashton Agar's stay in India has been extended to take in Australia's major warm-up for the Test series as the possibility grows that he may be in line for an extraordinary international debut in Chennai.

Previously scheduled to depart for India once the full touring squad had assembled, Agar will now be playing the three-day match against India A beginning on Saturday, and may yet have his time on the subcontinent expanded to include the Tests.

Agar is one of three spinners Australia will field in the practice game, Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon being the other two. Michael Clarke and David Warner will miss the match, following their recovery from injuries, to be ready for the first Test on February 22.

Only 19 years old and having played just a pair of Sheffield Shield matches for Western Australia following the shoulder injury to Michael Beer that ruled him out of this tour, Agar's left-arm spin has stuck in the memory of all who have witnessed his bowling in recent weeks.

His mature approach and skill in the field and with the bat has notably impressed the national selector John Inverarity, who is en route to India to discuss the composition of the team ahead of the first Test with the captain Michael Clarke and the coach Mickey Arthur.

"The plan at the moment is that he returns in time to play for Western Australia but there is a possibility that he could stay a bit longer," Inverarity told The West Australian. "We needed someone to make up the XI and it was a very good opportunity to invest an opportunity in a promising young player."

Inverarity's panel named numerous spin bowling options for the tour behind the incumbent Test tweaker Nathan Lyon, including the Tasmanian Xavier Doherty and the allrounders Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith. Agar lost little by comparison to his more experienced slow bowlers when he delivered eight overs during a two-day practice match earlier this week, and now has a further opportunity to usurp his seniors.

"Ash bowled really well in the two-day game," Clarke told AAP. "Everyone knows he's very talented. He's had success for Western Australia [eight wickets at 30.12 in two matches].

"I spent some time with him yesterday in the nets and tried to get him to watch some of the Indian spinners in the nets and see what he was learning from what they were doing. He's going to be a very good bowler. He wants to learn - he wants to get better.

"You never know what could happen. He's very lucky now. He's been given the opportunity to play in this three-dayer. We have Xavier Doherty, we have Nathan Lyon, we have Glenn Maxwell and we have Ashton Agar who all bowl spin. We want to make sure we're doing everything in our power to make the right decision for the first Test."

In this there are parallels with Lyon, who was chosen for Australia's Test side in Sri Lanka in 2011 after only a handful of Sheffield Shield appearances for South Australia, and to date has played more than half his 35 first-class matches at Test level. In the absence of outstanding spin bowling talent bolstered by experience, the selectors have been inclined to flights of fancy, of which Agar would be another.

His spells for the Warriors against New South Wales on his Shield debut at Blacktown Oval were noteworthy against batsmen well versed in tackling spin, the wickets of Scott Henry and Peter Nevill gained through genuine turn and changes of pace.

Agar's Shield batting has also been useful, reaping one half-century and one other handy score in four innings so far. He went to India on the cricket equivalent of an internship, but is now a chance of making a most rapid graduation to full duties.

'I wasn't expecting too much at the start of the summer but it has all happened very quickly and it has turned into a bit of a dream,'' Agar said. ''Michael Beer was bowling really well but he got injured. That gave me an opportunity to play for Western Australia, now to tour India for a week. It has been great.''

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kev on February 18, 2013, 19:45 GMT

    Thank you Nikhil for pointing that out and answering my question. I wasn't sure but know I know. Are there any broadcasts on radio at all though? I was listening to our ABC a few days ago and the announcer was saying that their journo couldn't even make a phone report from inside the ground during the test. This is a rule/condition set by the BCCI. This is seen by Aussies as excessive. When any touring team comes to Australia, they bring a journo with them and they appear on air. This has always been the case here. Is it not so in England or India?

  • Lester on February 18, 2013, 16:13 GMT

    Good post Sir_Francis. Agree with you entirely. It would seem that the current three best spin bowlers in Australia based on test performances and first class performances are Nathan Hauritz, Nathan Lyon and Stephen O'Keefe, though not necessarily in that order. Two seasons ago Ritzy was scoring Shield hundreds and taking five-fors, then he got injured and has not quite yet rediscovered that rich vein of form. Lyon seems to rise to the occasion when he bowls in Test colours but still appears to be learning his trade though possibly without subtleties like the doosra. SOK appears to be quite advanced in his apprenticeship judging on recent performances, but the Chairman of Selectors does not select him, and offers no explanation to fans.

    Selection of wannabe spinners like Doherty, Maxwell, Beer and Agar (after two matches, in one of which he was decidedly outbowled by SOK: 61.2-23-102-8 vs 37.2-5-103-3), based mostly on what seems to be wishful thinking, deserves some clarification.

  • Lester on February 18, 2013, 15:00 GMT

    Judging from most of the suggested XIs in this column indicates to me that some contributors have not bothered to consider Sarangsrk's measured comments in the featured article. In particular, "the opposition's weakness is your strength. India's weakness is decent swing bowling, not ordinary spinners."

    To this end, based on India's last performance in Australia when they were whitewashed, one might consider a bowling lineup as follows, based on performance rather than whimsy: Henriques (medium fast - reverse swing), Johnson and Starc (leftarm fast), Bird (fast medium) and Lyon (offspin - effective bowler getting better all the time - gets the tailenders out).

    Of our available batsmen the following, based on performance, are more likely to play longer innings than others: Watson, Cowan, Hughes, Smith, Clarke and Wade. Smith wins over Kawaja because of recent long innings and experience in Shield cricket. Khawaja's batting seems more suited to the short game than to the long form.

  • Francis on February 18, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Considering O'Keefe average nearly 32 with the bat and 27 with the ball and has captained NSW I'd be fascinated to know why Inverarity isn't impressed with him.

    They've been impressed with Lyon (no better than Hauritz and can't bat as well); Beer (done nothing), Holland (done nothing); Doherty (a net bowler); Agar (who?)l Smith (seriously?); Maxwell and his career 27 wickets (can they afford him?). Marcus North (record is no worse). I've probably forgotten a few but O'Keefe's FC record is much better that than any of these. Very odd. Maybe Clarke should bowl more. His ave. is better than Doherty's and that includes tests batsmen.

  • Craig on February 18, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    Why dont we just abolish shield cricket and pick players straight from grade cricket? The only way any bowler should be considered or even on tour after 2 first class games is if he got back to back 10 wicket hauls! Once again cricket australia are absolutely lost and are just guessing! If clarke doesnt score a mountain of runs this year we are going to get smashed!

  • Pete on February 18, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    It looks like Australia has two more spots for spinners than it has decent spinners. Doherty was the pick in the tour match - I'm sorry to say, I wouldn't leave him out. An upside I can see is that pretty much all of the Australian bowlers (including Siddle) are borderline all-rounders when in the right mood. It's risky, but this means neither Khawaja nor Henriques are necessary.

    If there's no Warner, 1. Watson, 2. Cowan, 3. Hughes, 4. Johnson, 5. Clarke 6. Wade, 7. Pattinson, 8. Starc, 9. Agar, 10. Lyon, 11. Doherty

    Bit stiff on Siddle, Khawaja and even Bird, and a bit eccentric with Johnson, but Wade needs a bit of a buffer. Three openers, a potentially devastating quasi-Watson in Johnson, Clarke in his preferred slot and no tail. Then three spinners and three and a half pacemen.

  • Michael Ponnudurai on February 17, 2013, 17:03 GMT

    My suggestion is Watson, Cowan, Phil Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja (Watson at this number if Warner is part of the team), Wade, Henriques, Starc, Johnson, Lyon and Agar. A fast bowling allrounder, and two specialist spinners is way to go. Unless the pitch has been additinally doctored to be a low bounce and slow turner, the normal Chennai pitch, the bald and grassless pitch-that is, would have good bounce too. In that case Agar would be better as his height could help get crucial bounce. Patience and application to play long innings would be better than attacking batting as Eng learnt after the first Test first innings experience. If Aus follows this approach, we could be in for a well contested series

  • King on February 17, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    Ozcricketwriter - Five seamers on an Indian pitch? Yeah, that'll work.

  • Adrian on February 17, 2013, 12:50 GMT

    With Warner ruled out due to injury, and Henriques improving with form, my XI is: Watson, Cowan, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Henriques, Wade, Starc, Johnson, Pattinson, Bird. There is no way that I would consider Siddle, who has an appalling record in India, and the only question is Bird vs Doherty. Doherty is the best of our spinners in Indian conditions and, to date, Bird is yet to do much in India. But the problem is that history tells us that Australian spinners do badly in India and hence I would go all pace and stick with Bird, who is a better than average pace bowler. I wouldn't consider Lyon, as he is really only good at backing up the pacers. Agar most certainly shouldn't be in the mix and needs to be sent home so that the others can get a shot.

  • Dummy4 on February 17, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    @KGY - not sure what you're on about India all games are shown by private broadcasters except some games during home series and India's games during the World Cup which go on free to air.

    I live in England and all cricket here (home series or away) get shown on Sky, so not on free to air.

    Australia is in a minority in the respect that a lot of cricket is shown on free to air channels.