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Steve O

O'Keefe refocused after SL heartache

Spinner adopts alcohol ban as he looks to regain his Test spot for the tour of India next year

Spinner Steve O'Keefe is hoping an increased focus on fitness will help him regain his place in Australia's Test team and also prolong his career as he prepares for his 12th summer of first-class cricket.

O'Keefe will head into the 2016-17 season looking to bounce back from two major blows in the past six weeks; the first a hamstring injury that cut short his tour of Sri Lanka, the second a $10,000 fine imposed by Cricket Australia following an incident outside a Sydney pub.

O'Keefe forced off with right leg injury


The early end to O'Keefe's time in Sri Lanka was the third occasion in less than 12 months that his attempt to restart his Test career had stalled due to factors other than form.

Having debuted against Pakistan almost two years ago, the left-armer was set to play a key role on Australia's tour of Bangladesh last October, which was subsequently abandoned due to security concerns, and then his recall for the Sydney Test in January was restricted to just 26.1 overs due to persistent rain.

While making no excuses for the incident a month ago that resulted in him being handed an Infringement Notice by NSW Police, O'Keefe said the frustration at having his Test dream snatched away again came bubbling to the surface.

"I think I mainly just felt sorry for myself," O'Keefe told Fairfax of his return home following the injury in the first Test in Pallekele.

"I'd been home for a week and I felt like I had things under wraps and then you have a couple of drinks and those other thoughts that are sitting around in the back of your head start to come to fruition.

O'Keefe takes 10, Aussies rout Board XI


"You think, 'Is that it? Is that your last opportunity to play cricket for Australia?'

"When you go home and you're on your own, you sit down and reflect on it and the Test is on the TV, it's a hard thing to take.

"Obviously it's fair to say I didn't handle it appropriately at all."

Part of O'Keefe's renewed focus for the coming season will include a self-imposed alcohol ban, a strategy used by countless athletes in the past including state and national teammate David Warner, who has been booze free for almost 18 months.

The 31-year-old, who has taken 86 wickets at 22 in the past three Sheffield Shield seasons, is also looking ahead to the four-Test tour of India early next year where spin will once again play a major role.

But with young spinners like Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa also in contention for a Test call-up, O'Keefe is trying to stay focused on a return to action for NSW Blues this domestic season, which starts with the Matador One-Day Cup next month.

"India is there and will be in the back of your mind, but it's just a day-by-day thing at the moment," he said.

"You've got to be performing well for the Blues and there is a lot of guys out there now, particularly young spinners around the country, doing really well."

Meg Lanning Steve Smith