Stephen Norman John O'Keefe
December 09, 1984, Malaysia
Right hand Bat
Slow Left arm Orthodox
Hobartville Primary; Richmond High
For a long time, it seemed Steve O'Keefe was to be one of the most unfortunate men in Australian cricket in the post-Shane Warne era. As a parade of 13 spinners were tried in the Test team, often with less-than-compelling first-class records, O'Keefe was left to toil away for New South Wales with far superior figures. His opportunity finally came when he was named in Australia's Test squad to play Pakistan in the UAE in 2014, following a summer in which he topped the Sheffield Shield wicket tally with 41 victims at 20.43. A left-arm orthodox bowler and solid lower-order batsman, O'Keefe could no longer be ignored; he had also been the leading Shield spinner in a pace-dominated 2012-13, with 24 wickets at 22.20. But he played only one Test on that UAE tour, then a washed out Test at the SCG against West Indies, then a single Test in Sri Lanka in 2016 before injury ended his tour, then a single Test at the SCG against Pakistan. Four series, four Tests, and no momentum. Finally, everything came together for O'Keefe when he played alongside Nathan Lyon in the first Test against India in Pune in February 2017, and used his accuracy and natural variation to plunder 12 for 70, the best figures ever by a visiting spinner in a Test in India.
He looked set to be Australia's number two spinner for future tours but an off-field alcohol indiscretion in 2017 seemingly ended such hopes yet he was surprisingly and controversially recalled for Australia's 2017 subsequent tour of Bangladesh despite being suspended by New South Wales at the time. Victorian rival Jon Holland was selected for Australia's next two overseas tours of South Africa and the UAE in 2018.
O'Keefe's performance in Pune should not be surprising. His bowling looks innocuous but he had been deceptively deadly for many years at first-class level. His initial chance in Australia's team came in seven T20s during the course of 2010 and 2011, but the longer format had always been where he had done his finest work. O'Keefe was born in Malaysia, where his father was working for the air force, and returned home as a toddler and grew into an Australia Under-19 representative in 2003-04. In 2010 he found himself in Australia's Test squad in England to play Pakistan, replacing the injured Nathan Hauritz, but Steven Smith - then viewed as a legspinner more than a batsman - was preferred in the Test team. O'Keefe was well-respected enough by New South Wales to be named the state's captain when Simon Katich stood down early in 2011-12, though he stood down from the captaincy towards the end of 2012-13 to focus on his own game.
Batting & Fielding