Australia news March 4, 2013

O'Keefe forfeits NSW captaincy

Steve O'Keefe has forfeited the captaincy of New South Wales in order to more vigorously pursue a place bowling left-arm spin for Australia.

Towards the end of his second summer leading the Blues whenever Michael Clarke is not available, O'Keefe volunteered to give up the job ahead of the state's final two Sheffield Shield matches, reckoning it would give him a greater chance of taking the wickets he needs to push for an international spot.

The Blues will instead by led by the batsman Ben Rohrer, who enjoyed success as interim captain last month when O'Keefe was briefly injured.

O'Keefe stated recently his disappointment at being passed over for a place in the Test squad to tour India, despite his possession of the most persuasive first-class bowling figures among all slow bowlers in the Sheffield Shield.

However apart from an eight-wicket match haul against Western Australia at Blacktown Oval recently, O'Keefe's bowling and batting returns have diminished during his time as captain, occasionally leaving selectors to ponder his best role in the NSW side.

O'Keefe's decision to abandon the captaincy also follows two years of largely barren results for NSW, and a raft of recent changes at the state association, which now has vacancies for the positions of chief executive and head coach plus a new chairman in John Warn.

Taking on the captaincy at the start of the 2011-12 season, O'Keefe was an unexpected choice to replace Simon Katich, who was keen to continue as state captain but was encouraged by the former CEO David Gilbert that the time was right for a change.

This left O'Keefe and the new coach Anthony Stuart as the inexperienced duo in charge, contributing partly to a poor summer. When results did not improve this season, Stuart was dismissed, and Gilbert and the chairman Harry Harinath have also now left.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here