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Spinner eyes aiding Smith's Asian quest

Back in the Test team's fold, Stephen O'Keefe is determined to prove he still has plenty to offer Australia in Asia

While Stephen O'Keefe doesn't expect to dust off his Baggy Green too regularly in coming years, the spinner admits he hasn't been shy in reminding captain Steve Smith that he might well be kicking around when Australia next play Tests in India.

Before his shock recall to the Test squad in Bangladesh this week as a replacement for injured quick Josh Hazlewood, O'Keefe was told the selection panel had overlooked him as they look to blood young spinners for the 2021 tour of India.

Fellow left-armer Ashton Agar, who picked up five wickets and 41 not out in Australia's first Test defeat in Dhaka, and leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson were picked to complement No.1 option Nathan Lyon.

Although it was a bitter pill to swallow for O'Keefe, Australia's joint leading wicket-taker on this year's four Test series in India, he says he accepted the panel's reasoning after a lengthy chat with chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns.

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But O'Keefe believes he still has a few more good years left in him and has let Smith, who isn't a national selector but does have a say in the overall direction of the side, know as much.

"I do like to remind Steve that if I'm still playing at 36, I might still be a chance," the 32-year-old told reporters on Friday.

"(Being dropped is) hard to hear at first but you accept that. I want to see a thriving team in four years' time that goes to India.

"(Smith) was one was one of the first people after 'Cracker' (Hohns) to tell me when they went down a different path with the team as to why they were doing it.

"I respect him for that."

Smith has it made known the 1-2 series defeat in India stung him, and his desire to taste victory in modern cricket's epicentre is right at the top of his to-do list as Test skipper.

Australia aren't likely to tour India for another Test series until 2021, so grooming the talented allrounder Agar as Lyon's long-term spin partner fits right into Smith's vision.

O'Keefe stresses that, first and foremost, he has the interests of the national team at heart, and he didn't hesitate in passing on some encouraging words to Agar during his Test return.

"I like seeing the Australian cricket team do well," he said.

"After day two, I even sent Ashton a message saying, 'you look right at home, mate. The ball looks like it's coming home beautifully and you're obviously more than capable'.

"To represent your country, it's been a dream of mine since I was a kid. Even being around here and being around the buzz, it still gives you goose bumps.

"Every single time.

"I know that these moments for me probably will come fleetingly, so I'm going to enjoy it, and I'm excited to be back with the guys.

"I want to make a difference whether it be on the field or off the field with these guys in this group now."

Despite the recent off-field indiscretions for which O'Keefe expressed remorse for on Friday, many were surprised to see him originally omitted for the Bangladesh tour given his match-winning 12-wicket haul in the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.

The selection panel's reasoning was that his form dipped in the three Tests after Pune, and while O'Keefe laughs that he set a pretty high bar for himself, he accepts he could have done more.

"I did drop off, but it's a bit hard to maintain a 6-35 in each innings, which I made clear to 'Cracker'," a smiling O'Keefe said.

"As a player, we went over there to win that series, and when you don't win, then you accept the fact you leave the door open for someone else to come in and take your spot.

"It was an admirable effort, we fought well as a team and I think guys had good individual standout moments but we set the bar to win and we didn't.

"I accept the fact that my form wasn't as good in the next three games, or as consistent as what the Indian spinners were.

"That's the yardstick, and that's what we should be striving for as a team."


Australia in Bangladesh 2017

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Bangladesh squad: Mushfiqur Rahim (c), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Mominul Haque.


27-31 August First Test, Dhaka, Bangladesh won by 20 runs


4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong