ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021
'Inspirational' Dre-Russ masterclass fuels Agar
Tormentor turns teacher to Aussie allrounder in invaluable lesson ahead of T20 World Cup
13 October 2021, 09:35 AM AEST
Ashton Agar will walk a little taller when he strides to the crease at the forthcoming T20 World Cup after receiving a masterclass in power-hitting from Australian tormentor, Andre Russell.
Agar will go into this year's showpiece ICC tournament expected to perform dual roles that have not traditionally been among Australia's strengths in six failed attempts at winning the men's event: spin bowling and lower-order batting.
On UAE pitches expected to be worn down by the recent Indian Premier League, the Aussies appear better placed on the spin-bowling front following the emergence of Agar and close friend Adam Zampa as the T20I side's most effective bowlers.
Australia have however not found the same consistency from their late-innings 'finishers', and Agar's batting looms as an important weapon in the coming weeks especially if they adopt Justin Langer's preferred team selection strategy of picking five bowlers.
Russell left the Aussies in awe during their T20 series defeat to West Indies in July, with Agar telling The Unplayable Podcast that "it felt like nothing you could do could stop him".
The Jamaican had a remarkable series, hitting 11 sixes from just 54 balls, maintaining a strike-rate of nearly 200 and being dismissed just twice in five innings.
It prompted Agar to approach him directly after the series concluded in St Lucia.
"I went up to him and I said, "Mate, can you please tell me a little bit about how you go about it?" Agar said on the cricket.com.au podcast. "What's your mindset, why does your technique look this way and how do you do it?"
"To his credit, he gave me heaps of time and the way he spoke was inspirational. He just oozed confidence.
"You could just see in his eyes that he had this full confidence in his ability and he knew that any ball that came into his area was going to get hit for six.
"But he was also able to explain very clearly, step by step, how he goes about it technically. I was really impressed by that.
"I was really grateful for that because it's always really cool when someone gives you their time and makes you feel valued."
Their conversation lasted the best part of 15 minutes and while the leanly-built Agar conceded he will never be able to match Russell's sheer brawn, there were valuable lessons in how the 33-year-old T20 veteran trains.
Agar explained how Russell tried to replicate game-like conditions by creating "unrealistic" targets to chase off a simulated final over, seeking out the team's best bowler to bowl it.
It's an exercise also favoured by fellow star T20 allrounder Dwayne Bravo, who Agar has previously played with at county side Middlesex.
"You've got to look at different players and take bits and pieces from them and weave them into your game and create this 'toolbelt' that could help you one day," said Agar.
"(Doing that) will make you a better player because you have way more range that way, rather than sticking to your own method all the time.
"The good thing about T20 cricket and playing around the world is you've got access to all of these guys and all of this knowledge – it'd be pretty foolish not to utilise that as much as possible.
"I'm not going to walk out there trying to bat like Andre Russell – I'm still going to be Ashton Agar – but maybe with a little more skill now and maybe with something technically that might help me when the opportunity presents itself."
Australia will reacquaint themselves with Russell when they face the Windies in their final group-stage game of the World Cup in Abu Dhabi on November 6.
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