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Is Ashton Agar a bowler or a batsman?

Roar Guru
16th December, 2015
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Ashton Agar, in more hirsute times. (AFP, Saeed Khan)
Roar Guru
16th December, 2015
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1811 Reads

If there is one Australian first class cricketer who is the most difficult to judge in terms of talent, potential, and future prosperity, look no further then Western Australia’s Ashton Agar.

In a recent Sheffield Shield game, Agar played a pivotal role in WA’s win over Tasmania by scoring his second first class century.

Yet two and half years ago, Agar was selected in the 2013 Ashes series as a spin bowler who batted at number eleven.

In Agar’s brief two Test career, he is best remembered for making 98 batting at number eleven and sharing a memorable last-wicket partnership with the late Phillip Hughes.

But with the ball, Agar’s supposed primary role, he only took two wickets at an average of 124.

Agar began his first class career in January 2013, as a nineteen year old. In his first five first class matches, he took 19 wickets at 28.42, while with the bat, Agar contributed 229 runs at an average of 32.71.

Actually with those batting figures, why did Agar bat at eleven in his Test debut, only six months after his first class debut?

When Agar got dropped from the Test side during the 2013 Ashes series, the Adam Scott look-a-like has struggled to find consistency in his game. Here are Agar’s Shield figures since his Ashes dropping.

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2013-14
10 matches
Ball: 21 wickets @ 56.62
Bat: 227 runs at 15.13

2014-15
9 matches
Ball: 31 wickets at 30.48
Bat: 270 runs at 30

2015-16
5 matches
Ball: 7 wickets at 63.57
Bat: 354 runs at 44.25

Overall
38 matches
Ball: 96 wickets at 40.58 including 4 five wicket hauls, 1 ten wicket haul.
Bat: 1331 runs at 28.31 including two centuries.

When you look at Agar’s season of 2013-14, it was a complete disaster. Averaging 56 with the ball and 15 with the bat, one gets the feeling that his Ashes axing took a lot out of Agar’s development as a player, and for that reason, selectors need to be careful on how they treat young players. In Agar’s case, he was only 20 during the 2013-14 season.

In the 2014-15 Shield season, Agar had a solid year, averaging 30 with both bat and ball. But in the first half of the 2015-16 season, his bowling and batting are going in complete opposite directions.

The popular opinion with Agar is that he is an off spinner and a handy lower order batsman.

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There are not too many “handy lower order batsman” that have accumulated two first class centuries at the age of just 22. If anything, many specialist top order batsman would be happy having two first class hundreds at that age.

It is an interesting time in Agar’s career to see which part of his game comes through. Agar’s career might have a transformation similarly to Australian captain Steve Smith.

In 2010, Steve Smith made his Test debut as a leg spinning allrounder. At the time a few labelled Smith as the next Shane Warne. Perhaps he got that tag because Smith was a blonde leg spinner, just like the great Warne.

Now fast forward to five years later, Smith is the Australian captain, and one of the best batsman in the world.

Now getting back to Agar. His first class batting average is 28, only three runs behind the three allrounders Mitch Marsh, James Faulkner and Moises Henriques, who all remarkably average 31 with the willow.

An interesting fact at the present time is that Agar has more first class hundreds (2) than Faulkner (1).

So is Agar a spin bowler, batsman or an allrounder?

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My observations of him is that as a spinner, he doesn’t turn the ball as much while with the bat, he is more akin to a hitter than an accumulater.

He may well be the allrounder that fills Australia’s number six position and becomes a star. He may well be a Test off spinner, who can handle the bat.

Or, he may well be just a first class cricketer, who can’t take the step up to Test cricket.

Whatever the future holds, it will be fascinating to see how Agar develops and is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

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