India vs Australia: Steve O'Keefe Says Visiting Bowlers Were Lucky to Find Edges
Left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe, who was responsible for the Indian middle and lower-order collapse with a six-wicket haul, said that the host batsmen were unlucky to have nicked the ball and being caught.
Steve O'Keefe was the main orchestrator in reducing India to a paltry total of 105 in the first innings of the first Test match played in Pune. O'Keefe registered his career-best figures of 6 for 35 which was also his first five-wicket haul that had the Indians looking for cover in the second day's play. In a pitch which is turning square, O'Keefe found the edge consistently and dismissed KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Wriddhiman Saha in a matter of six balls that had reduced the hosts from 94 for 3 to 95 for 6. But the Aussie left-arm spinner reckoned that they were lucky to find the edge consistently while the visitors played and missed on numerous occasions.
"It's amazing how things can quickly change over here. I was none for 30 off nine overs, probably didn't bowl very well at all in my first six overs. And then, it all just happened really quickly, and I guess that's the sort of wicket it is.
"We played and missed a lot of balls and fortunately for us, they nicked them and we caught them. So it was a good day to be a part of and well finished off by the batters," said O'Keefe.
But the 32-year-old didn't forget to mention that Indians can still fight back in the remaining three days of the Test match.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet. It will, if that contributes to a win. Right now, we'll enjoy we had a good day, but that's all it is. It was a good day's cricket. We all know how good this Indian team is, how well they can bat, and even in spinning conditions they are exceptional players.
"They're all match winners, they're top seven, you'd even argue Jadeja, the top 8, so we have our work cut out for us. We are 300 ahead, let's get more and let's create 10 chances tomorrow and hold on to it," he said.
O'Keefe, who created mayhem after change of ends, said it was just looking at India's Ravichandran Ashwin bowling his overs from the opposite end that helped in deciding to ask his team's offie, the experienced Nathan Lyon, to do so.
"We were debating it in the changing rooms. Mitchell Starc and I didn't really care which end we bowled at. The idea was for Mitch to create some footmarks for Nathan outside off stump at that end, so I think the move was just to bowl Nathan from that end because that's the end that Ashwin's bowled his overs from. (Ravindra) Jadeja probably bowled most of his overs at that (his own) end, so it was just good fortune, I guess.
"When I started to bowl my first six overs, I think I went probably back to my comfort zone, which is what I bowl in Australia. It was just probably going a bit over the top and whenever I was trying to bowl quick, it was too full. It was ordinary bowling the first six overs. I'd been working in the nets with some other variations, just changing the seam angle and arm angle. It made all the difference," he explained.
Happy to see a track that afforded so much help to the tweakers unlike in Australia, O'Keefe said: "It's always nice to see a spinning wicket. You don't get to see it too often back in Australia. But in saying that, you know in seeing a wicket like that, there's going to be a lot of onus and you're going to have to carry a lot of workload. Heavy lifting has to be done by spinners on that wicket.
"We are just fortunate we've got someone like Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood, two of the best bowlers in the world, who can back you up. And their time will come for sure, whether the ball's reversing or moving sideways. So it's nice to see spinning conditions, but you know you have a job to do."
O'Keefe agreed that the team was over the top with the dismissal of India's in-form captain Virat Kohli for a second-ball duck for the first time at home.
"I think my expression says it all when you look at the footage. I think I was more excited than Starcy. I was running around and the wheels are spinning only because you know how good he is and regardless of the conditions this guy is an out-and-out star.
"We've got to be on our game in the next innings. To knock him over for a duck is great fortune for us and we're going to have to do that consistently over the next four Tests."
Kohli, who came into the game on the back of scoring four double hundreds in the last five series, was out chasing a wide ball from Mitchell Starc to be caught at first slip by his Australian counterpart Smith.
O'Keefe also praised captain Steve Smith for backing him and former India left-arm spinner Sridharan Sriram for guiding him how to bowl on the Indian pitches as the Australian team's spin bowling coach.
"I know what I've got and how to go about using what I've got. I think the important thing is I've well backed up by Steve Smith, I think he's a brilliant captain. When you play under a captain who shows a lot of belief in you, it's amazing what can happen.
"I've got a good coach who tapped me on the head in between sessions and he's not afraid to tell it to your face and tell it to you straight, which is excellent. I think Sree is an excellent spin-bowling coach. I've worked with him a couple times now and he's really impressive, so that's really helped me, I think,' he said.
"Again, Sree is like 'let's go out and bowl till you feel comfortable with it and then hit it on. Let's start in the next innings.' It worked out this time," O'Keefe added when asked what prompted him to go to the middle and practice during lunch time.
(With PTI Inputs)