West Indies v Australia T20Is - Men's
Aussie bolter Agar eager to grab his opportunity
An unexpected call-up to Australia's white-ball squad, Wes Agar has long had his eye on making his own mark at international level
11 June 2021, 12:33 PM AEST
It's been one thing for Wes Agar to spend the first few days of his maiden Australian training camp with his big brother Ashton, but it'll be quite another when a couple of the world's big guns of fast bowling touch down in Brisbane next week to work alongside him.
Agar, who was this week one of six players called up to Australia's expanded preliminary squad for the forthcoming white-ball tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh, was just 13 when NSW pace pair Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc made their international bows.
The then teenager was still three years away from being on hand to witness his older brother make history in the 2013 Ashes, but already the names Hazlewood and Starc were being embedded in his brain as he began determinedly plotting his own path to the bigtime.
Just last year, the 24-year-old said he modelled his game off Hazlewood, the metronomic right-armer who has been ranked among the world's best in Tests and ODIs for much of the past six years.
"I love his run-up and ball trajectory off the wicket, and the way he gets the ball to carry and nip off the seam," he said. "If I could be half as good as any of those blokes (Hazlewood, Starc, Pat Cummins), I'd be a very happy man."
Now Agar will be receiving wisdom straight from the horses' mouths, as Hazlewood and Starc – neither of whom played in the recent Indian Premier League – plot their returns to international cricket after what will be a near six-month hiatus by the time of the opening T20I in St Lucia on July 9.
"Any of the (Australia squad members) that aren't from South Australia I haven't really had a lot to do with," the right-armer told cricket.com.au.
"Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are the best in the world, so to watch them and to work with them, and train alongside them, and just to be in this squad with them is a massive learning curve for me.
"To know that I'm alongside them in the squad now is something that really motivates me, and hopefully it helps me learn what it takes to compete at the top level."
Agar said the prospect of one day playing international cricket was transformed from fantasy to stark reality when he watched Ashton score his remarkable 98 from No.11 on debut in the 2013 Ashes ("to see someone you've grown up with achieve it, it makes it a realistic goal") and the 2019-20 Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year now looks well placed to take his own first steps on the international scene, particularly given the likely withdrawals of several other fast-bowling options from what is currently a 29-man squad.
Two summers of regular wicket-taking with Adelaide Strikers (39 wickets, strike-rate 14.72) forms the statistical basis of his selection, while Ashton points out his brother has the fast-bowling versatility needed to prosper on the slower and lower wickets likely to confront the Australians in both the Caribbean and Bangladesh.
"He's got a really good skillset," said the allrounder. "He's got a really good yorker, he can bowl a good knuckle ball, and he's got enough pace as well.
"If you put them all together at the right time with the right plans for the batters, I think he'll be OK.
"There's always this thing around, is someone ready? Are they not ready? You never know, you just get selected and give it the best shot that you've got."
Which is exactly what little brother is doing. After a strong pre-season in which he maintained the kind of fitness levels that helped him shed six-and-a-half kilograms and more than 30mm of body fat leading into his breakout 2019-20 summer, Agar is working his way back into bowling and readying himself as if he will be the first name picked on July 9.
"You've got to prepare for every situation and for me, I'm preparing to play and perform at my best if needed," he said.
"Obviously coming off the off-season you've got to be careful going into (full training), but we know there's a tight turnaround heading off to the West Indies, so for me to get ready it's a matter of managing my body and keeping my loads up, and gradually progressing that … but doing it in a decent time frame.
"I've had a really good off-season and worked a lot on my fitness and it's held me in good stead. Hopefully the body stays strong and I'll be ready to go if needed."
Qantas Tour of the West Indies 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Dan Christian, Pat Cummins, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Tanveer Sangha, D'Arcy Short, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa (squad to be trimmed before departure)
West Indies T20 squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Nicholas Pooran (vc), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Kevin Sinclair, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr
First T20: July 9, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 10, 9.30am AEST)
Second T20: July 10, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 11 9.30am AEST)
Third T20: July 12, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 13, 9.30am AEST)
Fourth T20: July 14, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 15, 9.30am AEST)
Fifth T20: July 16, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 17, 9.30am AEST)
First ODI: July 20, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 21, 4.30am AEST)
Second ODI: July 22, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 23, 4.30am AEST)
Third ODI: July 24, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 25, 4.30am AEST)