O'Keefe recalled to replace Hazlewood
Steve O'Keefe has been recalled in place of the injured Josh Hazlewood to be part of Australia's squad for the second Test against Bangladesh, despite still being under suspension from New South Wales and a matter of months after his time in the national team appeared to be over.
The national selectors elected not to pick another pace bowler in Hazlewood's stead, after witnessing the extremely spin-friendly conditions in Dhaka and in the expectation that a similar surface will be prepared for the second match in Chittagong next week. O'Keefe will join fellow spinners Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson in the squad and be a strong chance to play.
"With Jackson Bird in the squad we are comfortable with our fast-bowling options for the second Test and have elected to add an additional spinner given the conditions we are likely to face in Chittagong," the national selector Trevor Hohns said.
The Test captain Steven Smith subsequently stated that the decision had been made with an eye on Australia's next tour of India, four years into the future. "We just see it as a bit of a time to get us someone new into the group," Smith said on arrival in Bangladesh. "Ashton has been around the group for a quite a while now, he's worked on his art and he's becoming a lot more consistent in what he's doing. It'd be fantastic to see him get an opportunity.
"It's four years until we next go to India which is always a tough tour for us and one that I particularly as captain want to win [at some point] throughout my tenure. It's an opportunity for Ashton to get some experience in these conditions and hopefully improve, with an eye to the next time we go to India as well."
Following his return from the India tour, where he played an instrumental role in Australia's surprise opening Test victory in Pune, 32-year-old O'Keefe was fined A$20,000 for offensive behaviour during the NSW end of season awards presentation in Sydney, later revealed to have been directed at the Australia cricketer Rachael Haynes and her partner. He was also suspended from playing for NSW in their next tournament, the domestic limited overs competition due to be played in October.
In subsequent weeks, O'Keefe lost his Cricket Australia contract and was omitted from the squad for Bangladesh, as the selectors indicated they wanted to look towards the future by choosing the younger left-arm spinner Agar instead. "Whilst Steve O'Keefe bowled well in Pune," Hohns said when announcing the squad, "he did not maintain this level in the remaining matches of the series and we believe the timing is right for Ashton to enter the set-up and test his allrounder ability."
At the time, the decision was heavily criticised by the NSW chief executive Andrew Jones, the same administrator who had fined and suspended O'Keefe from the state side, but maintained that his offence had not been of the "career-ending" variety.
"It's unfair to be honest. I think it's just unjust, " Jones told the Daily Telegraph. "I think 'SOK' should be in the side. He was the leading wicket-taker in India and had the best figures by any spinner visiting India ever. "Clearly he's the best left-arm spinner in Australia. I think the facts speak for themselves. Agar will be a good cricketer … but this is not a good cricket decision.
"If we thought it was a career-ending offence we would have torn up his contract. And we didn't. We levied a punishment which we thought appropriate and proportionate. Obviously Cricket Australia agreed with that. The behaviour issue was an issue but it's been dealt with. There's no double jeopardy. The feedback is it's a cricket decision. That needs to be judged on that basis and I just think the numbers tell the story. If I were him I wouldn't be happy."
O'Keefe subsequently spent time overseas, away from cricket, and has in recent weeks been training as part of the NSW squad, either side of the resolution of the MoU dispute between CA and the Australian Cricketers Association. He was not a part of Australia's pre-tour camp in Darwin, with the Victorian left-arm spinner Jon Holland chosen to augment the camp's spin stocks instead.
Hazlewood, meanwhile, is expected to spend up to a month out of cricket after suffering a side strain early in the Dhaka Test and then feeling worsening discomfort as the match progressed. "Josh injured his left side whilst bowling during the first session of the match," the team physio David Beakley said. "This type of injury will require several weeks of rehabilitation, consequently Josh will be unavailable for the second Test against Bangladesh and subsequent ODI Series in India, and will return home for further assessment."
Kane Richardson, the South Australia seam bowler, will replace Hazlewood in the ODI squad for India.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig