Bit of fun sends Agar soaring

Michael Sheedy used to coach Ashton Agar at Richmond, and now supplies the young star’s bats. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo”This is a bit of fun, isn’t it?” Just as he seemed composed and happy making his Test debut for Australia, Ashton Agar, the new wonder kid of world cricket, was relaxed making his first appearance in Victorian district cricket four years ago.

On that day in 2009, the then 15-year-old from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs – who was so gangly that his team-mates called him Bambi – dismissed two top Victorian players in two balls.

That was when he strolled over to his captain at the time, Michael Sheedy, and told him how much fun he was having.

”He has just got that unflappable nature,” says Sheedy. ”He just makes it look too easy.”

Agar certainly looked like he was having fun as he soared into Ashes history on Thursday at Trent Bridge.

He stepped to the crease and cracked 98 from 101 balls – the highest score from a No. 11 in the history of Test cricket.

The 19-year-old walked in when Australia was 9-117 and cooly set about turning things around for his team in the most blistering fashion.

The British press have called him ”Agar the horrible” but also ”Agar the incredible”.

Sheedy, who captained and coached Agar at Richmond, watched every minute of Agar’s mighty knock from his couch. There was more to it than simply celebrating a mate’s achievement: Agar made his quick runs using a bat made from Sheedy’s boutique Melbourne company.

Sheedy began Tails Never Fails two years ago and has made about 400 bats. But thanks to Agar using his willow, Sheedy might have to start ramping up production.

”I could probably sell 400 next week if I had them,” Sheedy says.

Those closest to Agar describe him as level-headed, intelligent and approachable. He’s also like any teenager and enjoys movies and music, particularly hip-hop.

Sheedy says Agar has a cheeky sense of humour. He flicked Sheedy a message just before it became public knowledge that the biggest selection gamble in recent memory was unfolding at Trent Bridge.

”He sent me this text about 10 minutes before he got presented his baggy green and he said, ‘Hey mate, are you watching the cricket tonight. Ha ha. Enjoy.’

”I thought, ‘Right, he’s playing.’ That’s his sense of humour.”

Richmond’s current coach, former Bushranger Allan Wise, says the club knew there was something special about Agar when he first arrived at the Tigers from his junior club, McKinnon in Bentleigh East.

”He had very, very good temperament,” Wise says.

”He had a very cool head and seemed to be always in control of the direction he was going with his cricket.”

Ashton’s father, John, also says a cool level-headedness is one of his son’s great strengths.

”He has a motto that is ‘No fear and play with freedom’ … He plays his cricket that way,” he says.

The first thing Agar did after getting out two runs short of a century was apologise to his parents, who had flown around the world to see him play.

”Sorry about that,” he said to his mother, Sonia, as he left the arena.

Why he felt the need to apologise only he knows, because in the space of one innings a player only cricket enthusiasts had previously heard of had breathed fresh life into Australian cricket.

How had he done it?

”[Australia coach] Darren Lehmann told me to bat the way I know how to bat. He has told the whole team to bat in their natural styles,” Agar said after his knock. ”That’s what I tried to do; take the game on.”

And take the game on is exactly what Agar did.

Agar doesn’t receive any fee to use Sheedy’s bats. Sheedy says Agar doesn’t see being supplied with cricket gear as a right, just a luxury.

However, things might be about to change, and he may find himself being offered a few more of a sport star’s luxuries.

Talented, good looking and articulate, Agar is a marketer’s dream. Not only did he break a bunch of records with his knock, he did it with Errol Flynn’s daring and the boyish charm of Harry from One Direction.

His agent, Jason Bakker, also manages Cadel Evans, and yesterday his phone was running hot.

”It’s like Cadel winning the Tour de France all over again,” Bakker said.

It is hoped he doesn’t rush to answer the calls, allowing Agar to remain unaffected just a little longer.

For now, though, Agar is just enjoying the moment.

”It’s a dream come true really, that’s what it is to me,” Agar said.

”Forever I have dreamt of playing Test cricket for Australia. For my debut to start the way it has, I’m over the moon. I’m very happy.”


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.