Australia news January 9, 2017

O'Keefe withdrawn from BBL to prepare for India tour

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Australia consider Steve O'Keefe's accuracy as a vital component of his bowling, even if he doesn't turn the ball too much © Getty Images

Steve O'Keefe's importance to Australia's plans for the looming tour of India, and his own decidedly chequered injury history have been underlined by Cricket Australia's decision to pull him out of the remainder of the Big Bash League so that he could prepare comprehensively for Test cricket.

Last year, O'Keefe was a key plank of Australian plans to face Sri Lanka away, but a hamstring strain ruled him out of the series midway through the first match in Pallekele. In his absence, neither Nathan Lyon nor Jon Holland made an impact, and both were subject to criticism by the captain Steven Smith and the coach Darren Lehmann for not matching up to the standards of Sri Lanka's spinners.

A long history of soft tissue injuries, including a calf strain earlier this season, is a major point of concern for O'Keefe and also Australia's planners. His withdrawal from the BBL will allow for him to undergo a Test-specific physical preparation, however the only matches available to him and other long-form players such as Matt Renshaw will be second XI and club fixtures.

"Post the Sri Lanka tour last year we have been in talks with Cricket NSW and Steve on the best way for him to prepare for the tour of India," the head of team performance Pat Howard said. "After his recent injuries, which have caused him to miss Sheffield Shield matches this season, he has had a lot less red-ball match practice than other players that are likely to tour India and it is important he gets as much bowling in the format he is going to play.

"His focus will now be on Grade and Futures League cricket before likely being one of the first players to depart for Dubai in late January."

During the SCG Test against Pakistan, O'Keefe showcased the qualities that Smith admires, namely his unfailing accuracy. A low arm action allows him to slide the ball through while attacking the stumps, with the odd delivery turning away from the right-handers for variation.

In the lead-up to the match the selectors assembled O'Keefe, Lyon and the West Australian left-arm spinner Ashton Agar for something of a camp, as they trained together in collaboration with the spin consultant John Davison. There have been calls from some quarters for the inclusion of a leg spinner on the tour - many have ben impressed by the work of Adam Zampa, while Shane Warne has been an advocate of Queensland's Mitchell Swepson.

However O'Keefe's preparation reinforces exactly how critical he is considered to be as part of Australia's campaign.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rob on January 11, 2017, 20:51 GMT

    @ CricMystique: The BBL is on when it is because of the Christmas school holidays. It's the only time of year all the states have school holidays at the same time. So yes, it's about the money but also giving as much opportunity as possible for the kids to come and watch some cricket at night.

  • CricMystique on January 11, 2017, 7:19 GMT

    @ DUNGER.BOB ON JANUARY 10, 2017, 20:49 GMT - thanks.....and likewise mate-getting to know quite a bit about aus cricket and its setup, and like others have mentioned always admire aus being at the forefront of innovation and their management to see the big picture-SOK being left out to prepare for the indianseries for instance, as well as once i read about Aus importing overseas soil for pitch preparation to replicate spin conditions-dunno what became of that...though i cant figure out the BBL scheduling-how come this is in between test matches.....i mean surely this being a money spinner-can have a separate window for this...feel a bit letdown if cummins/pattinson aren't selected for the india series-would be terrific to see them here...

  • masrta7371949 on January 10, 2017, 23:40 GMT

    I think the worrying thing is that SOK has got so many Shield wickets where he barely turns the ball. That means Australian batsmen will get undone by straighter deliveries in India, just like they did in Sri Lanka.

    I have no idea how to look it up (as far as I know, Statsguru only does International matches) but from what I remember, SOK gets as many 1st innings wickets as 2nd and a fair amount of LBWs.

  • rob on January 10, 2017, 20:49 GMT

    Yeah, you see, this is good. I feel as though I've learnt something about India and it's people from the last 20 or so posts. It's much better than the usual sledgefest. Finally, something for the grown ups to enjoy.

  • Vinod on January 10, 2017, 19:57 GMT

    @ serious-am-i on January 10, 2017, 18:50 GMT - well said buddy, just looking at the last 20 odd comments on this blog, i'd wager to say most posts were informative, thought provoking and without the usual stats bash or team a better than team b etc....long may this continue.... @ Jose P - yeah - fair point mate-to win our our pitches, sweep is definitely a big weapon, reverse sweep as well, puts the bowlers off their length, rattles them bigtime....if you see majority of overseas players who've dominated in india were good exponents of sweep -eg - Andy flower, gooch, younis, inzi, shiv, sanga, mahela to name a few...generally they sweep on length.... and yeah - i do think pitches will be even bounced and not Bunsen burners from day one as the common perception is...am guessing it will be more slow and batsmen friendly....any ways ....time will tell...cheers...plz publish cricinfo

  • Mashuq on January 10, 2017, 19:24 GMT

    @Izzidole, your reference to SOK's 2013/42 wickets is echoed by Fuzzy's 2015/48 wickets, 2016/27 wickets. Their shabby treatment by the selectors defies explanation. I'm all for backing Lyon, but why ink him in without giving others at least some opportunities or in Fuzzy's case none at all till he's deemed too old by the Vics to include in their current plans for this season. But I'm not complaining about past fair treatment as much as for opportunity to win ONE game in India now! As @Cricfan76842785 points out, "Zampa is considered a front runner for a test tour of India despite never playing a FC match in Asia", but Fuzzy played quite a few! Agree @Dr.Scott that Swepson is too inexperienced atm. Agar can't play alongside SOK but can stand in for him + maybe double as a *7 'all-rounder'. This is what Tugga said last week which amounts to endorsing Fuzzy and Agar as supplementing Lyon and SOK. If there's turn+ bounce Lyon and Fuzzy are OK. Otherwise SOK, Fuzzy + Head. Whats to lose?

  • Peter on January 10, 2017, 19:09 GMT

    Thank you to @Pitch_Curator, @TESTCRICROX & @Jose_P for your informative feedback. Indeed, the match I went to at Pune was at the old stadium so will be looking at interest at some of these new grounds that have been mentioned. I look for to a competitive series, although more hopeful than confident. I think we have a better overall bowing attack than England, but I believe their batting is stronger & definitely longer. Cheers & good wishes to you all.

  • Andy on January 10, 2017, 18:50 GMT

    To the Aussie fans who're wondering bout how the new debut venues would be - let me assure you, they won't turn from ball one & will be mostly batsmen friendly wickets for the first few days at the least - as the state associations wouldn't like to be in ICC's bad books in their very first match, it was proved recently against Eng - the Vishakapatnam test match. But don't expect crowds at these new venues though, ODI or T20 will be jam-packed but tests nah! Will be a miracle even if half the seats are filled.

    To the extremes & Indian fan pretenders... take a chill pill. Enjoy the game & stop with this fan war & be true to yourself. Its just a game of cricket & mind you - Gentlemen's game ...

  • Jose on January 10, 2017, 17:35 GMT

    @Gurjot14 on January 10, 2017, 16:49 GMT

    Good point on Josh.

    I can't think of a better pair than Starc & Josh to open your bowling in India. Even if Pattinson & Cummins are fit and available. Both of them also had longer experience with Indian pitches & players - though in the shortest format. Both, I think, are bright guns to adapt -to suit the longer format, I reckon.

  • Jose on January 10, 2017, 17:28 GMT

    @Chris_P.

    Yesterday, against another piece, you asked about our pitches..

    Many have already answered you.

    Indian pitches are tough to predict. For instance, I had seen both in Kanpur & Nagpur extreme cases, over time. The greenest pitch, I had ever seen in India was the Nagpur pitch, when Manohar was the boss of Nagpur & wasn't on the same page as the then BCCI boss. The same Nagpur also faced ICC's censure, when SA got an extreme turner on their last tour.

    But, you will get the normal Indian pitches (low & slow, but no dirt tracks), the kind England got. Eden Gardens was an exception.where even B Kumar got a 5-for!

    You may also get Dharmasala as an exception, which will suit your bowlers who rely on swing. There is always something in the air (location & altitude) to get that swing.

    Compared to England's case, the big difference is that, in March, compared to Dec, pitches will be drier and will assist the bowlers on day 4 &5. All in all we can expect a competitive series.

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