WHAT A TEST: Steve O'Keefe celebrates after taking one of his 12 wickets in Pune.
WHAT A TEST: Steve O'Keefe celebrates after taking one of his 12 wickets in Pune. Rajanish Kakade

Captain Steve Smith's secret weapon

CRICKET: I've known for weeks Steve O'Keefe would be the key to an Australian upset on this tour of India.

I was one of Steve's nine victims when he stepped back to grade cricket after the SCG Test against Pakistan and ran through my Campbelltown-Camden team at Manly Oval.

Steve took 9-54 off 29.5 overs. We were rolled for 139.

We had a few chats that day about Hindi, Indian food, culture and a bit of cricket - things he knew to expect on this tour.

Soon we were working together again at a two-day session at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.

We worked on lots of simple things, such as working out how to change his angles and strategy mid-match and giving him some little pointers on how to tweak the way he bowls when away from Australian conditions.

And I remember saying I felt he would have the most impact in India because of how I saw him make adjustments from Manly to the pitch in Brisbane.

In the space of a week, he convinced me he could be Steve Smith's secret weapon.

"Your biggest challenge," I told O'Keefe, "is going to be when you're playing the Test match, you will have to adapt on the spot. It has to happen immediately. Go to point and have a think. If this end's not working, go to the other end."

And that was what gave me the most pleasure in watching him bowl in Pune - after a few tough spells, he readjusted. He switched ends, changed up his length and India had no answer.

He bowled fuller, got more confident, bowled with more side spin and walked away with 12 wickets.

We're staying in regular contact while Steve is in India and my message to him is to close the book on this Test, because Australia has the potential to win this series.

India is a very unpredictable side on the subcontinent. When England won the second Test in Mumbai on our 2012 tour, setting up a drought- breaking series win, we were given great confidence.

And that's great, of course.

But you also know India is not a place to get over- confident. They will assess the conditions and I won't be surprised if they produce a flatter deck for the next Test match.

I knew Pune was more likely to produce turning wickets than some other decks in India, but I was still surprised they didn't try to prepare a flat deck.

If you have an experienced spinner coming in such as Nathan Lyon, or O'Keefe, they're going to exploit those conditions - as they did.

If they want to produce a turning deck, do it against an opposition that has an inexperienced spin attack - not like Australia's.

I expect India will produce a flatter deck for the next Test in Bangalore.

If Australia can adjust to those conditions and dominate, then we're

talking. We could be thinking Australia has the potential to win the series.

If it's a flatter deck, India could be a dangerous team because they will dictate. They know how to play on those pitches. They'll accelerate and I don't know how Australia will react to that.

 

* Monty Panesar is a former England spinner.

News Corp Australia


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