Finger and calf problems have disrupted his home season but he was still named T20I player of the year
Ashton Agar is hoping to make up for lost time on the T20I tour of New Zealand having seen the majority of his home season wiped out by injury.
Agar injured a finger and calf in the ODI series against India, which meant he missed the T20Is, and the latter problem ruled him out of the whole of the BBL with Perth Scorchers who finished runners-up after defeat in the final against Sydney Sixers. He has been preparing for this tour back in Western Australia were his build-up was briefly hit by the Covid-19 lockdown of Perth last week.
Despite missing the matches against India, Agar was named the T20I player of the year at the Cricket Australia awards. Now, with the T20 World Cup to work towards in October, Agar is looking forward to getting some time in the middle in New Zealand once the players complete their two weeks managed isolation in Christchurch.
“It has been frustrating, there has been so much cricket on,” he said at Sydney airport. “All I’ve been doing is watching cricket, I’m itching to get out there and that’s a nice feeling to have when you come back after a while to really want to get out there and play.
“Lucky I’ve got that opportunity coming up. The injury is coming along nicely. My finger is all healed up and my calf is going really so hopefully fit for game while.”
Taking the T20I award and having built an impressive record the ball that reads 30 wickets at 20.86 and an economy of 6.87 has enabled Agar to feel “a bit more settled” in his position but he takes nothing for granted. “You can never get too comfortable because international cricket is a brutal game,” he said.
He knows as well that conditions could be a challenge. New Zealand is a tough place for spinners in T20: in the last two years the economy-rate of 8.56 is the joint highest among the top-ranked T20 nations.
It’s not certain that Australia will field two frontline spinners in the XI given they will also have Glenn Maxwell’s offspin in the team and perhaps D’Arcy Short’s left-arm wristspin.
“That is always the biggest challenge, the smaller grounds,” he said. “I remember going to Eden Park the first time I went to New Zealand and I was like ‘this is a joke, it has to be the wrong ground’ because of how small it was. But it actually brings you into the game as a spinner. They are going to try and hit you for sixes and you’ll get hit for some but you have the opportunity to take a few wickets.”
The established pair of Agar and Adam Zampa are joined on this tour by 19-year-old Tanveer Sangha who was the leading spinner in this season’s BBL.
“I saw lots of it and was so impressed,” Agar said. “I was just having a chat to him before and have spent a bit of time with him, he’s such a nice level-headed guy. He was able to hold his nerve in his first Big Bash, so his maturity was probably what was most impressive and his skills, I think he’ll be a very fine bowler if he’s not already.”
For the new faces – Sangha is one of three uncapped players along with Josh Philippe and Riley Meredith – and the fringe players the tour is a chance to make their claim for a spot at the World Cup. “When you speak about World Cups it takes a whole squad to win one,” Agar said. “We don’t have all the Test stars at the moment but we still have a really good team who I think can beat anyone on their day. Hopefully a few guys can get an opportunity this tour and get a taste.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo