Agar hopeful of playing at ‘spin-friendly’ Chepauk

With Adam Zampa looking certain to spearhead the spin attack, Ashton Agar’s spot in the playing XI isn’t confirmed, but he remains hopeful.

Australia’s Ashton Agar attends a practice session at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Friday.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

 

The tour opening ODI may still be a couple of days away, but the Australians have already started playing the mind games.

It was evident on Friday as the team’s comeback spinner Ashton Agar admitted that Shikhar Dhawan’s absence — released for India’s first three matches to be with his ailing wife Ayesha — could be a big boost for his side as India will be without its successful left-right opening combination of Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.

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“Shikhar is in good form, so him not playing is a positive for us. There are obviously reasons behind him not playing,” Agar said.

The youngster, who has returned to Australia’s scheme of things after a couple of years, feels fielding to a right-right combination would be easier. “Yes, it (left-right combination) can make things hard. In that case, ball swings in a particular direction, making things difficult for the fielding team. So now, (with Shikhar’s absence) it is a bit advantage for us. We have to go there for the best and see what combination they set,” Agar said.

“They are really valuable assets. They can spin the ball both ways. When it’s night time, it’s hard to pick the wrong ones as well. They are genuinely good bowlers and are wicket-taking options for the side. They can be hard to get away” — Ashton Agar on wrist-spinners.

With Adam Zampa looking certain to spearhead the spin attack, Agar’s spot in the playing XI isn’t confirmed, but he remains hopeful. “It all depends on the wicket. Adam obviously is the front-line spinner in the squad and he has bowled really well in these conditions in the IPL and in the previous tours. It’s obvious that he will start,” Agar said. “If the wicket remains (good), I think there might be a chance (for me).”

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After grabbing the headlines during the 2013 Ashes series for scoring a record 98 as a No. 11 batsman, Agar has faded out of the scene. He last donned the one-day cap for Australia in 2015 in a series against England.

After returning to the fold for the recently-concluded Test series against Bangladesh, Agar hopes to cement his place. “I am happy to be back. I felt a lot more calm (in Bangladesh) and comfortable… Too many years make a big difference. Lot of cricket has been played at that time. You need to take confidence from that thinking that you too have worked hard at that time,” he said. “I have done(worked) a lot on my game from 2015, and now I know my game better. Self-belief is everything, and I am on a high these days. I’m enjoying.”

Vouching for his clan, Agar feels the wrist-spinners are always ‘valuable assets’ for the teams as they don’t rely much on the wicket. “They are really valuable assets. They can spin the ball both ways. When it’s night time, it’s hard to pick the wrong ones as well. They are genuinely good bowlers and are wicket-taking options for the side. They can be hard to get away,” he said.

Referring to his team-mate Zampa and the two wrist spinners in the Indian line-up — Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav — Agar is hoping to see a mouth-watering contest. “I think they will play a big role in the series, to be fair. There are three of them at the moment. I think they can certainly put more on the ball. They don’t need more of the spinning wicket to spin the ball and they are all pretty clever, the three leg-spinners. Zamps, with his slider and wrong ‘un, he’s got a lot of different balls and he knows when to use them. It will be interesting to see how they play out,” he said.

Are Aussies expecting a spin-friendly track at the Chepauk on Sunday? “If it’s like the one used in the practice match, it will spin. The outfield was not too fast in the practice game, that’s something we don’t see in India. That was a good thing,” he said.