What’s the story?
An unlikely batting collapse, which saw the Indian team succumb at the hands of the Australian spin attack, exposed the hosts’ vulnerability in losing the plot to the slower trade sometimes at home. For Steve O’Keefe, the “biggest influence” isn’t a specialist spin guru back home, but a former Indian international, Sridharan Sriram.
“I think Sri is an excellent spin bowling coach. I've worked with him a couple of times now and he's really impressive. He gets it, he understands how to bowl in these conditions, he understands what the batters are thinking”.
In case you didn’t know…
O’Keefe was the wrecker-in-chief for Australia on the second day of the first Test, picking up six wickets for just 35 runs, including the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul.
Sridharan Sriram, the former Indian all-rounder who played 8 ODIs for India between 2000 and 2004, was roped in to help out the Aussies first for their tour against Bangladesh back in 2015, becoming the first Indian ever to be part of a coaching part of a senior Australian squad.
The left-arm spinner was called up early this year to mentor the spin attack for their tour to India.
The heart of the matter
O’Keefe admitted that he had been using different seam positions in the net, and changing his arm angles during delivery. During all of this, he concedes that Sriram has been very encouraging, egging him to try out the variations during the Indian innings. The result was for everyone to see.
Heaping praise on the former Indian international, O’Keefe said that he understands what the Aussie spinner wants to implement, and identifies what he is comfortable doing. He also had good words to say about his captain, Steve Smith, stating that he had been brilliantly backed by him and has shown faith in his abilities.
O’Keefe has himself dubbed this tour to be a “career-defining one” for him, raising the expectations for a mouth-watering clash between him and the Indian batting line-up over the course of the next three Tests.
The 32-year old, who has played just four Tests for the national side, returned with career-best figures in his first innings on Indian soil, and will be looking to carry on in the same vein.
It is nice to see a former international helping out an overseas trade, sharing tips for the tourists to better understand the workings of Indian conditions. Indian coaches have been a big influence on foreign players, especially in the IPL, where they have been neck to neck with other international coaches.
For 32-year old Steve O’Keefe, success has come late, but hopefully, he will able to cement his place from here on, and not follow the path of someone like Jason Krejza, another talented Aussie spinner who lost his way after a wonder one-Test display against India in 2008.