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How Psychologists and Pain-Scientists Helped Australia’s T20 Specialist Ashton Agar Find Balance

After grappling with a profound sadness that seemed to consume him, left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, known for his stunning 98 on Test debut at No.11, has found his footing again with the help of cricket—a consistent anchor in his life.

The 2024 T20 World Cup in the USA and Caribbean represents more than just a tournament. For the US, it’s a chance to establish itself on the cricketing map. For players like Ashton Agar and smaller associate nations, it’s an opportunity to revive dreams on the grandest stage.

In 2014, Western Australia’s coach Justin Langer confronted Agar, sensing something was amiss. “What’s happening, mate? Am I the enemy now? I am just trying to help. You are always fighting me,” Langer asked. Agar broke down, unable to articulate the turmoil inside. This struggle culminated during a game against Tasmania in Hobart, where Agar, overwhelmed by a “deep sadness,” left the field in tears after just three deliveries.

Agar’s troubles began not long after his impressive Test debut in 2013. Despite his heroic 98 runs, he was dropped after the next Test. His life began to spiral into a dark abyss. “It was like my mind was in this other place. It felt like my energetic, fun soul was getting sucked right out of me,” Agar shared on journalist Neroli Meadows’ podcast ‘Ordineroli Speaking’.

Cricket, usually a refuge, couldn’t shield him from the growing anxiety and sadness. He struggled with mental blues, isolation, and guilt. Agar recalls admonishing himself as days slipped into darkness, trapped in an emotional rollercoaster that left him feeling numb yet overwhelmed.

People speculated that his mental state was due to the dramatic high and subsequent low of his debut, but Agar insists that wasn’t the case. Cricket remained a “wonderful release,” but the emotional strain led to frustration and deep sadness. He couldn’t identify a trigger, making the experience even more perplexing and isolating.

In early 2020, a pivotal moment on a plane prompted Agar to journal his thoughts and goals. Reflecting on his father’s hard work and feeling guilty about his own struggles, he wrote, “I just want to be a good person.” This realization marked the beginning of his journey towards openness and seeking help.

A significant breakthrough came when Agar recalled a childhood incident that had caused chronic physical pain. He connected with Lorimer Moseley, a pain scientist, to understand and manage his chronic pain better. Alongside therapy with psychologist Michael Lloyd, Agar learned to be present and allow his thoughts and feelings to pass naturally.

By addressing both his physical and emotional pain, Agar found a new perspective. He embraced the idea that “every-moment happiness” is unrealistic and focused instead on being open, present, and giving his best self. This approach reflected in his cricket, allowing him to rediscover the joy of playing, reminiscent of a kid in the backyard.

Agar’s journey underscores the importance of mental health and the need for support systems. His story is a testament to resilience and the power of seeking help, reminding us to “make the most of life; it can’t last forever.”

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