Australian cricketer Steve O'Keefe takes part in a training session.
Australian cricketer Steve O'Keefe takes part in a training session. DAN HIMBRECHTS

O'Keefe leaves no stone unturned in India preparation

CRICKET: Test spinner Steve O'Keefe has gone country-hopping for Indian intelligence as he gears up for Australia's tilt at toppling the No.1-ranked Test team.

O'Keefe took the big step of dropping out of the Big Bash following the third and final Test in Sydney in January to fine tune his preparations for the four-Test series on the subcontinent.

He missed the Sydney Sixers' march to the BBL final, instead playing club cricket - taking nine wickets in one game - and second XI cricket for NSW to get a "volume" of red-ball cricket under his belt.

But he also spent time with former English tweaker Monty Panesar, brought on as a pre-tour consultant, and took in advice from Kiwi and Sri Lankan spinners to get his head around what he'll face in India.

"I have spoken to Gaz (Nathan Lyon), who has played here before - he has spoken to (New Zealand's) Daniel Vettori. And I was able to briefly chat with Rangana Herath from Sri Lanka," O'Keefe said from Dubai where the Aussie Test squad is training.

"The main things you get from those guys is it's about challenging the batters' defence. And if you can continually put the ball in the right areas, given these conditions will spin a lot more than what we are used to at home, I think that will help us."

Panesar, who took 28 wickets in eight Tests in India among his 167 career scalps, worked with the Aussie spinners in Brisbane before they went to Dubai.

O'Keefe, who played two games in India with the Australian A team in 2015, said Panesar spoke about adaptability, with wickets likely to change from venue to venue, and even day to day.

New ICC regulations that will punish venues and cricket boards for providing substandard pitches won't be in force when the series begins on February 23, so O'Keefe and the Aussies will prepare for pitches that cater to the home team's strengths.

"You are going to get some different wickets, although generally they will be slow and spinning, but at times they can play a bit different - one might be quicker, one might bounce a bit more," O'Keefe said.

"He (Panesar) spoke about being able to adapt quickly and on the spot and being able to take the batters' scoring options. He spoke about building pressure by being a little bit defensive, it was something that was refreshing to hear.

"They are a class team and exceptional batters at home and it's going to be a big job. I have no doubt if we get it right for a sustained periods then we can do some damage."

Selectors have four spinners to choose from in India, with O'Keefe and Lyon the incumbent Test spinners, and Ashton Agar and rookie leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson also in the squad.

News Corp Australia


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