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O’Keefe selection questioned by Hastings

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Sep
6
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Australia seam bowler John Hastings has pointed out that Steve O’Keefe was picked for the Bangladesh Test without any recent match practice © Associated Press

John Hastings, the Victoria and Australia seam bowler, has given voice to many privately questioning how Steve O’Keefe could be playing a Test match for Australia while still being suspended by New South Wales for poor behaviour.

At the same time Hastings, who is a longtime friend of O’Keefe, also wondered how the national selectors chose O’Keefe to go to Bangladesh as a replacement for the injured Josh Hazlewood instead of Jon Holland, who took part in Australia’s pre-tour camp in Darwin and was highly successful during an intra-squad practice match.

While O’Keefe has stated that he was always informed by the NSW chief executive Andrew Jones and Australia’s selection chairman Trevor Hohns that the sanction – which also included an A$20,000 fine – did not preclude Test squad selection, others have struggled to come to terms with the apparent contradiction.

“I really feel for Dutchy [Holland],” Hastings told RSN radio. “Steve O’Keefe was best man at my wedding so I’m rapt for him, but probably by all rights he probably doesn’t deserve to be there.  He’s suspended by NSW Cricket and he’s over playing for Australia. It’s an interesting one that one.

“I don’t think Jon Holland can do any more than what he has done over the last few years. Last year he was prolific for the Bushrangers. He went up to Darwin [to the camp], got four or five for one in a spell. I honestly don’t know what the selectors could be saying to him, if anything. It’s just unbelievable.”

Numerous players and coaches around the country have raised queries about how O’Keefe managed to return to the Test team despite being banned from the next NSW tournament and this year’s domestic limited-overs series, for offensive behaviour towards a female Australian cricketer and her partner during the state’s end of season awards night.

Equally, there is disquiet at the decision to send O’Keefe to Bangladesh without any recent match practice – his previous competitive match was the fourth Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy in March – seemingly ignoring the example of none other than Holland himself, who went to Sri Lanka last year as an injury replacement for O’Keefe and then struggled to bowl at his best due to minimal preparation time.

“He’s coming in with no game time,” Hastings said of O’Keefe. “It’s a massive ask for someone to come in with little or no preparation in matches. That time in the middle is absolute gold dust.”

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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