Six Ball Over: Steve O’Keefe

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With a ten-wicket haul and a not-out 78 against the Sri Lankan XI, Australia’s left-arm spinning all-rounder Steve O’Keefe has thrown himself right into Test contention.

He’s already played two Tests; one in 2014, one earlier this year, and has been probably the most consistent spinner in Sheffield Shield cricket this decade. Recently, Mind the Windows was able to ask O’Keefe a few questions, and the Six Ball Over is below. Thanks go to O’Keefe for his time.

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1. You admit that you’re not a huge turner of the ball, so what are the challenges and benefits of being a finger spinner who doesn’t rely on ripping turn?
Consistency, patience, variation and belief!

2. You made your T20i debut for Australia after something like three domestic T20 games. What was it like debuting at international level that quickly — essentially ‘learning’ a new format on-the-job?
Yes, it was a surprise. I was picked on the back of playing well in some recent Australia A games but that was four-day cricket. I enjoyed the experience and it certainly made me hungrier to get back into the team once I experienced that environment.

3. You’ve always been at a state with multiple spin options — from Krejza, O’Brien, Casson and Hauritz early on, to someone like Nathan Lyon now. What are the differences between playing as a sole spinner, and bowling in partnership with another spinner?
I never really bowled too much with those spinners, except for Nathan Lyon. All of those spinners were exceptionally talented for NSW and Australia, and being around them really helped me grow as a player – watching them train and go about their games. Nathan Lyon is a great guy who I love bowling with; he has a cool head and is very humble and willing to help.

4. Do you think being an all-rounder helped or hindered your bowling development?
Being able to do all three skills in the game is critical. I think originally I started out in younger age cricket as a batter, then developed more as a bowler as I got older and focused more on that. I’ve never been picked solely as a batter but I see my role in the middle order ‘engine room’ as critical to winning games for my team.

5. Do you consider yourself a batsman who bowls, or a bowler who bats? Has that changed over time?
I’m definitely a bowler who bats. That has changed over the years from when I was a youngster to now. I do, however, work hard on all three forms of my game as you need to be able to win games in all three areas for your team. When I realised my main job was to be a bowler in a team my batting got a little bit neglected, however that has changed over the last couple of seasons.

6. You’ve played two Tests to date, about 18 months apart. Has having those appearances as rather irregular occurrences made it more difficult to adjust to that level when you have been given the opportunity? Added to that, what are the technical differences between First Class and Test levels?
I’ve enjoyed any opportunity to play for Australia and always felt humbled to be able to put on the Baggy Green, whenever [I’ve had the chance]. The difference is that you’re playing the best in the world, so you need to be even more on your game!

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