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O'Keefe forfeits NSW captaincy

Daniel Brettig

March 4, 2013

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Steve O'Keefe took three wickets to help reduce Western Australia to 232 for 9, New South Wales v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield, Sydney, 1st day, January 24, 2013
Steve O'Keefe wants to push harder for a national team place © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by Meety on (March 6, 2013, 0:33 GMT)

@kimbosterelny on (March 5, 2013, 3:46 GMT) - I have seen SO'K in different formats bowl, & usually in the short forms he bowls dart-like, with some changes in pace. Only seen him in Shield on TV, & generally there wasn't much turn on offer, most of what I go on is, he can't be 30 to 40% more effective than every other spinner in Oz & not be a good Test prospect. The reason being, most Ozzy spinners given a chance at Test level over the last 5 years or so have done better in Tests than in the Shield. So if someone like Hauritz averages in the low 40s in the Shield but has a mid to high 30s average, someone like SO'K almost has to be able to ave sub-30 in Tests given his sub 30 Shield average (ALMOST certainly). I think if anything SO'K under bowled himself as a captain. Tends to happen a lot with allrounder-like captains. The only bloke who I ever saw over bowl himself was Kahlid Mahmud from Bangladesh - he averaged over 200 at one stage!

Posted by   on (March 5, 2013, 20:00 GMT)

Fight son, fight! I´m not sure why he should be made to fight quite so hard, but i´m glad he is giving it everything he has got. Who knows, maybe the selectors will actually start picking the test team on shield form one day. Seems to have worked with Bird and Henriques also looks promising after a good shield season. Probably Hughes is the only recent selection on shield form that has been a let down. But then we see so many picked with no FC form, or even games at time being picked and they are consistently letting us down. Will the NSP ever see it?

Posted by   on (March 5, 2013, 5:20 GMT)

Surely Brad Haddin for captain no?

Posted by kimbosterelny on (March 5, 2013, 3:46 GMT)

I have only seen SOK bowl once, and he did not really turn the ball; Lyon does spin it hard. But that is a few years ago, and he may have improved. Can anyone who has seen him comment (Meety?). One issue I had with his captaincy was a conflict of interest; Smith got very little bowling this year, and with Zampa beginning to emerge, that was another potential problem; being captain put him in a false position, with rivals for a potential international spot (esp. as only one usually picked) in the same team. It is different for batting positions; there is more, and the captain has relatively little influence on how many runs another player scores; he can make a huge difference to a bowler.

All in all a good move. I think he was unlucky that Doherty went in front of him; D is not a big spinner. I have not seen Agar, but on reports, he may push past both SOK and D (and Beer), esp. given his role in the recent big WA chase. Anyone seen him? How much does he turn it?

Posted by Meety on (March 5, 2013, 2:15 GMT)

@bobagorof on (March 4, 2013, 12:26 GMT) - I agree. On top of that, in an important tour match in Hobart he took as many wickets in ONE innings as Doherty & Beer did in the whole Ashes. The England top 7 in that tour game was the same that did rather well (so I am told), during that summers Ashes! What annoys me is, whilst I get that sometimes it is okay to use a little bit of intuition about a player from one format & extrapolate into another format (albeit risky), SO'K has superior 20/20 stats to Doherty, yet Doherty gets the benefit of having par Short Form stats & SO'K doesn't. Yet it was 20/20 that drove the push for Doherty & then Lyon into the Test team. SO'Ks 20/20 stats match or better both those bowlers, & is comparable to Beer. So, SO'K has the best FC record of spinners in the country, he has been our 2nd best T20 spinner for Oz (Smith actually the best), has comparable BBL stats, but can't convince the NSP he can enact "massive" impact!

Posted by Nerk on (March 5, 2013, 1:16 GMT)

SOK has been the best spin bowler in the Shield for the past couple of seasons. He is also not a bad bat. Watching him bowl at Shield level, it becomes obvious that he knows his craft well, has good control over pace and flight, and is very thoughtful tactically. If anything, he deserves a go, seeing as Lyon had a poor summer, Doherty would play better as a No.2 spinner rather than as a No.1 and Maxwell has to develop his accuracy a bit more before he can be effective against top batsmen.

Posted by D.V.C. on (March 5, 2013, 0:24 GMT)

SOK's 1st class bowling average is 27. That's 10 better than Doherty and 13 better than Lyon or Beer! Add to that his 1st Class batting average is 30.

Honestly I think the selectors are afraid of picking O'Keefe because he will play well enough that he couldn't be dropped when the next brilliant spinner comes along. If they keep picking unknowns then they might get lucky, but if they don't pick a winner they'll be able to drop them easily for the next one. O'Keefe would ruin that strategy.

Posted by ygkd on (March 4, 2013, 20:59 GMT)

If O'Keefe was high in the selectors' thoughts he'd have been in India. I doubt not having the state captaincy would have made much difference.

Posted by blink182alex on (March 4, 2013, 19:10 GMT)

I don't think SOK would be the solution to all our spin problems, but he wouldn't let the side down. For me we should stick with Lyon, he's only 24 years old and has contributed significantly in all series he has played, he is not the first spinner to have a tough time in India. But if we back him properly he can develop into a good test spinner.

Agar looks very promising, only one of him and Beer can play for WA so someone is going to miss out. SOK is better than Doherty and Maxwell though.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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