In early February 2020 Wes Agar of the Adelaide Strikers and the South Australian Sheffield Shield side was named the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year at the Annual Australian Cricket Awards. About ten days later, on 21 February 2020, his elder brother Ashton Agar produced a hat-trick in a five-for haul that led to the demolition of the South African side in a T20 match at Johannesburg.
Strangely, both young men were brought up and educated in Melbourne. They could not, it seems, break into the Victorian side and Ashton began plying his trade in Perth for Western Australia and Wes moved to South Australia. While media accounts mention this background in passing, none address the yawning question about the competition for places among the plethora of cricketers in Melbourne and the specific obstacles which the two Agars faced.
There are yet other dimensions that are neglected. While some reference has been made to their education at De La Salle College, their father John Agar and their sporting interests, little weight has been devoted to two other striking dimensions.
One: there is a third brother, one younger than Ashton, but older than Wes, who was an integral pillar in the triumvirate who excelled at cricket for de La Salle College. His name is William – generally called “Will.’
Two: their mother is a Sri Lankan migrant named Sonia who arrived in Australia aged ten.
We are indebted to Chip Le Grand and Pia Akerman of The Australian for these details in an article crafted after young 19 year old Ashton Agar scored 98 runs in his first Test match (against England no less) in 2013 and thereby earned an indelible place for himself in the cricket charts as the highest scoring No 11 in the history of the game (thus far).
Le Grand and Ackerman lay stress on Sonia Agar’s cooking of curries and her passionate advocacy of “social justice” and mention the fact that “her parents were both strongly connected to Melbourne’s Sri Lankan community.”
However, there is something missing: we are not given Sonia’s maiden name and hyphenated ethnic background. This is central. Since the 1980s, if not earlier, there has been no single “Sri Lankan Community” in Melbourne or in any cities across the world with significant numbers of Lankan migrants. The Sri Lankan migrants of recent times are split into Tamil and Sinhalese groups of various shades jostling with other bodies of more ecumenical disposition that include Burghers, Sinhalese, Moors, Malays, Borahs and Parsees in amiable mix (the pukka Burghers of yesteryear and their Dutch line of emphasis having – thankfully – atrophied via aging and death). The Ceylon Society of Australia centred in Sydney (with branches in Melbourne and Colombo) and the Australia Sri Lanka Association in Adelaide are among the several instances of the more ecumenical ethnic conglomerations –but the latter has only a few Tamils now as the older generations have passed away.
By “hyphenated ethnic background” I mean these subcategories: Sinhala Lankan, Tamil Lankan, Muslim Lankan, Burgher Lankan, Malay Lankan, Parsee Lanka, Borah Lankan, Gujarati Lankan, Colombo Chetty Lankan or Mixed Lankan (aka Thuppahi Lankan). Her facial visage and name suggest that Sonia has a familial heritage with some admixture of Burgher ancestry; but there are numerous Sinhalese and Tamils with such skin tones.
It would seem that these distant generational links are of no great interest to the Agars. That is quite in order. This distancing act is their right and may be an asset in the context of the sharp political tussles and wars within the island – flowing overseas into ‘skirmishes’ and confrontations in Australia, England and elsewhere.
* Chip Le Grand and Pia Akerman: “The serene smiling face of Ashton Agar highlights multi-cultural Australia,” 13 July 2013, http://thuppahis.com/2013/07/13/the-serene-smiling-face-of-ashton-agar-highlights-multi-cultural-australia/
* “Aussie Born To Lankan Mom Makes Impact At Ashes,” in http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2013/07/14/aussie-born-to-lankan-mom-makes-impact-at-ashes/
* Michael Roberts: Incursions & Excursions in and around Sri Lankan Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2011 … ISBN978-955-53198-0-5