Stephen O'Keefe bagged 41 wickets in 10 matches in the Bupa Sheffield Shield playing for South Australia © Getty Images
Stephen O’Keefe bagged 41 wickets in 10 matches in the Bupa Sheffield Shield playing for South Australia © Getty Images

Sep 9, 2014

Australia made some surprise inclusions in the squad for the UAE tour against Pakistan. One of them was the selection of left-arm orthodox spinner Stephen O’Keefe for Tests. Chief selector Rod Marsh has explained that Pakistan’s susceptibility against left-arm spinners was exposed by Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath which influenced O’Keefe’s selection.

“Pakistan haven’t had a great record against left-arm orthodox spinners. Herath is not a big turner of the ball; Stephen O’Keefe’s not a big turner of the ball. They both rely on accuracy rather than huge amounts of turn. That’s another reason he was chosen,” chief selector Rod Marsh was quoted as saying the official website of Cricket Australia.

The veteran Lankan spinner had bagged a record 23 wickets in the two-Test series to flatten Pakistan. In the second Test at SSC, Colombo Herath bagged nine wickets in an innings.

Former Australian player Dean Jones who commentated during the Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka also backed O’Keefe’s selection. “Obviously, (Pakistan) have got problems against spin. Do (Australia) go in with two spinners and two quicks, or three quicks? I think they have to (go with two spinners),” Jones said.

Australia have their regular off-spinner Nathan Lyon and O’Keefe’s inclusion adds more variety to spin on tracks which could assist them. They also have a part-time option in leggie Steve Smith.

O’Keefe is himself aware about the havoc created by Herath and is keen to follow his footsteps. “He’s certainly someone I copy or (base) my game on. He’s a short spinner who bowls very similarly (to me). He attacks the stumps, mixes his pace up really well and he probably is the leading left-arm spinner in the world. He’s not a big spinner of the ball, but he can show at that level that he can take wickets. For me, that’s inspiring and he’s someone I hope to emulate and put my own twist on things,” said O’Keefe.

Complete coverage of Australia tour of UAE 2014 here