Qantas Tour of South Africa

Agar at peace with selectors’ call

After being overlooked for Australia’s Test tour of South Africa, Ashton Agar insists he is capable of playing as a frontline spinner

Louis Cameron, in Hobart

06 February 2018, 11:04 AM

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Four-Test spinner Ashton Agar says he's come to terms with the national selectors' decision to omit him from Australia's Test squad for South Africa, but insists there's no reason why he can’t be considered a frontline spinner.

The selection panel made the surprise move to recall left-armer Jon Holland for the four-Test series, while Agar was picked in Australia's squad for the Gillette T20 tri-series.

Selectors effectively confirmed they viewed Holland as the better bowler, with chairman Trevor Hohns explaining they don't foresee the need play two spinners and that they wanted the "best specialist spinner" should No.1 tweaker Nathan Lyon miss a match.

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"I got told that they wanted to go with a specialist spinner and not an all-round option and that's fine," said Agar in Hobart ahead of Australia's T20I against England.

"There's nothing I can do about it really, I just have to keep putting my best foot forward.

"I try not to worry about anything at the moment, I'm just trying to enjoy my cricket. I'm very happy to be here."

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Both Agar and Holland missed the start of the JLT Sheffield Shield season through injury, with Holland collecting 11 wickets at 18.64 in two games since his return while Agar has four wickets at 29.75 from just one match.

Holland had a career season last summer, picking up 50 wickets at 21 and was named player of the match in the Shield final after taking 7-82 in the first innings to lead Victoria to their third straight title.

Despite that, he was overlooked for Test tours of India and Bangladesh last year, with Agar and NSW’s Stephen O'Keefe preferred to partner Lyon. Agar was originally picked for the Bangladesh trip over O'Keefe in a bid to groom him for Australia's next Test tour of India, selectors explained at the time.

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The Western Australian claimed seven wickets at 23 in Bangladesh and proved a capable sidekick for Lyon, who had a record tour with 22 scalps at 14.

With a batting average of 32 from his four Tests, Agar can rightly claim allrounder status but he says there's no reason he can't be considered a frontline spinner too.

"It's hard, isn't it?" says Agar when asked whether he views himself as an allrounder or a specialist spinner.

"It's whatever the public and the media perceive you as.

"I see myself as an allrounder and a specialist spinner as well.

"I often get picked on my bowling and often play because of my bowling as a specialist spinner.

"I would like to be an allrounder, that's what I love. But I don't see that there's any reason I couldn't be both of those."

While his Test ambitions are on hold for now, Agar's standout KFC Big Bash League season made him a must-pick for Australia's T20 series against New Zealand and England.

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The 24-year-old finished with an economy rate of 5.74 through nine games for the Perth Scorchers but he stresses he has no intentions of focusing solely on the shortest format.

"That's a long way off for me, being a T20 specialist," said Agar. "That's noting I've really considered.

"I love red-ball cricket, I love one-day cricket, I love T20 cricket. I'm just focusing on enjoying it."

Qantas tour of South Africa

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Jon Holland, Jhye Richardson.

Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24

First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3