Former Australian left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe said that Indian batters could break a team down mentally while playing at home, and the Kangaroos need to be ready to pounce on opportunities if they want to eke out a positive result from the series.
Recalling his experiences from Australia’s last tour of India in 2017, which the hosts won 2-1, O’Keefe said, “These guys just break you down mentally, physically, not by playing big shots and taking the game away from you, but by just slowly chipping away getting singles, getting off the strike.”
Speaking to Sydney Herald, the 38-year-old also talked about the defensive techniques employed by the Indian batters and how they wore them down and won the series with their rock-solid defense.
“Their forward defence seemed impenetrable At times, you’re like ‘I can’t see a way of getting past…’ These guys were just bulletproof in their defence and had a way of manipulating the scoreboard to keep it moving, keep getting off the strike and at times it felt like whatever plans you had were a bit redundant,” he said.
O’Keefe had bowled 77 overs in India’s first innings for three wickets in the third Test in Ranchi. Cheteshwar Pujara scored 202 runs in the game, playing 525 balls as Australia drew the game.
Cheteshwar Pujara has so far faced
670 balls (111.4 overs)
865 mins (14 hours, 25 mins)
in his last two Test inning (255* runs!)#IndvAus
— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) March 26, 2017
“It’s just interesting over there, you’ve just got to get ahead of the game, and it’s very hard to get ahead in India. But that’s the key.” O’Keefe said.
“They very rarely give you an opportunity. And when you can sniff it, you’ve got to take full advantage of it. You’ve got to try and find a way to accelerate the game, so you’re so far ahead of them that they’re coming from well behind.” he added.
The left-arm spinner helped Australia win the first test in Pune with figures of 12/70.
Giving insights about the current spinners in the squad, O’Keefe pointed out that Nathan Lyon will be a key asset in the team.
“Gazza is going to be vital for that team’s success because of the experience he had in 2017. He goes over now a far more mature player than he did last time and I felt like he did a great job then,” he said.
He also pointed out that Ashton Agar could be a vital asset and said, “His bag of skills; [he is] tall, can bowl quick and slow with a lot of work on the ball. I think he’s going to be vital to that team doing well.””
On the bespectacled 22-year old Australian spinner Todd Murphy, who is a relatively unknown commodity, he said, “He spins up at the back of the ball, which means he’s going to get a lot of drop. He’s going to get a lot of bounce and in the right condition spin.”
Backing the current Australian squad to clinch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy O’Keefe said that they have a formidable batting unit.
“I’m so bullish about this team. A lot of those guys who are part of that (2017) experience would have learned so much from that. At times we got close, and the next time becomes a little bit easier.”
“I believe that is going to be the case this time. We’re going over with a strong batting group who play spin really well. Marnus [Labuschagne] hasn’t played over there but is a good player of spin, we’ve seen that already. Cameron Green is elite, so I feel this group is strong,” he observed.
Australia will play the first test on February 9th in Nagpur. The side hasn’t won a test series against India since 2015 and hasn’t beaten India in India since 2004.