February 7, 2017 12:28:09 pm
Australian spinner Steve O’Keefe is aware that taming the Indians would be a “big job” but exuded confidence that his team is capable of doing “some damage” during their four-Test series which begins with the opening match in Pune on February 23.
“They are a class team, they are exceptional batters at home and it’s going to be a big job. But I have got no doubt if we get it right for sustained longer periods then we can do some damage,” he said.
“I have spoken to the guys who have played there before. I had spoken to Daniel Vettori, I was able to chat briefly with Rangana Herath and the main thing that I got from them is to challenge the batters’ defence. It is about building pressure by putting the balls in right areas.”
The 32-year-old has never played a Test in India but has good memories of an Australia A tour of the region in 2015. In the second unofficial Test in Chennai, O’Keefe had claimed six wickets, including the wicket of India skipper Virat Kohli.
“In that line-up there were plenty of players who have now cemented their place in the Indian team, such as (Cheteshwar) Pujara, K L Rahul, Karun Nair and Virat Kohli -they are four of the top six. The positive was we could play and compete against these guys. We were able to win a game and draw a game. Both Ashton (Agar) and I played over there, we had great chances and we would draw from it,” he said.
“But I also understand that it would be quite hard. When they are playing for their country, they go up another level as well. So we gonna have to match them if not try get on top of them if we have to win.”
O’Keefe had to cut short his campaign for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League season to prepare for the India tour at ICC’s academy in Dubai and the left-arm finger spinner said the plan is working out well.
“The body feels good – so far so good. Have been able to get through some long days here in Dubai, getting that volume in will certainly put me in good stead,” he said.
“It wasn’t an easy decision when you step away and see the Sixers play in a final – it’s something you miss out on. But for me it was about getting some volume under my belt.
“In that time I was able to get 100 overs in grade cricket and second XI cricket, and we also play with a Dukes ball, which is a little bit similar to the SG [ball used in India],” said O’Keefe, who will partner with Nathan Lyon as Australia’s frontline spinners in the series.
“I found it really beneficial. Although it would have been nice to play with the Sixers, my main priority is to play well for Australia. I felt that was my best preparation.”
O’Keefe has been training with former England left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who has a good record in India and he said he had learnt some key lessons.
“You are going to get different wickets, albeit they will generally be slow and spinning. At times they can play a bit differently. It might be a little bit quicker, one might bounce a bit more, so we talked about being able to adapt really quickly and on the spot and also being able to take away the batter’s scoring options in regards to boundaries,” O’Keefe said.
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