Australia spin consultant Sridharan Sriram hailed Steve O’Keefe’s ability to adapt to Indian conditions and his willingness to learn while bowling after the left-hander’s match haul of 12/70 triggered India’s stunning loss in Pune on Saturday.
Addressing the media at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Monday, Sriram said: “India is such a big country, there’s no one-stop solution. So you have just got to adapt on the go. And so I think that’s where Steve O’Keefe really scored, because he was well prepared.
“He was prepared to experiment and try out different things in the nets. So, I think he knew that he had to come with an open mind for every day of a Test match. He knows that. I think that’s his biggest strength.”
O’Keefe, who hadn’t taken a wicket till lunch on the second day, bowled a devastating third spell to rattle India and finish with figures of 6/35 in the first innings. He had an identical haul in the second innings as well, including the prized wicket of Virat Kohli, but by then Australia were clearly in the driver’s seat, having set India a target of 441.
Recalling the period when O’Keefe was found walking around instead of joining the team for lunch, Sriram said: “I came down from the viewing area and I knew he was a little disturbed. I didn’t know whether to really speak to him or not. But the conversation happened and he said ‘I think I need to have a bowl with you in the centre.’
“He told me he was a bit nervous to start off with and he was in his comfort zone trying to bowl as he would do in Australia. I asked him to follow what he felt, which was to ‘go a little bit rounder and quicker’, and I think he adapted beautifully.”
Even captain Steve Smith had lauded O’Keefe’s hard work and patience after the match on Saturday. “I love Sok’s (O’Keefe’s nickname) willingness to learn different things and try and adapt to different conditions. I know he has worked with Sri, that’s with us on this tour and Monty back home,” Smith had said.
“He is able to bowl differently to what he bowls at home. Back home he gets over the top of the ball a lot more, here he gets rounded and changes his seam positions and gets the most natural variation out of the wicket.”
“I have not been with him (O’Keefe) right through. I’ve seen him in patches. But the good thing is you can even follow him bowling in the Sheffield Shield game because I can see it on Cricket Australia’s website,” said Sriram.
“I can see what he’s doing. So I’ve been following him quite a bit in that I have watched even some games live, I’ve watched the Sheffield Shield games. He knew that he was the sort of subcontinent expert that the Australians were looking for and he knew that he had to play over here, so I think he sort of stepped up to that beautifully.”