Remorseful SOK says 'words are cheap' | cricket.com.au

Advertisement

Remorseful SOK says 'words are cheap'

Recalled spinner discusses his suspension, his Test recall and his push to win back respect

Recalled spinner Stephen O'Keefe admits he thought his international career was over after being sanctioned for his second alcohol-fuelled offence in less than 12 months.

Speaking for the first time since copping separate punishments from Cricket Australia and Cricket NSW for making "highly inappropriate comments" after an end-of-season awards function, a candid O'Keefe says "words can be cheap" and that he knows he needs to earn back the respect of cricket community.

Originally left out of the touring party for Bangladesh despite being Australia’s joint leading wicket-taker in their four-Test series in India earlier this year, the left-arm spinner earned a shock call-up this week when fast bowler Josh Hazlewood was ruled out with a side injury during their first Test defeat in Dhaka.

Super SOK scales the heights with 12 in India

"Yeah, I did originally (think my career was done)," O'Keefe told reporters ahead of the team’s short flight to Chittagong for Monday's second Test.

"I thought, I felt at the stage when I stuffed up the first time, you’re very lucky you get second chances and I got that.

"And I have faulted again and made some mistakes which I completely regret (and) I’m extremely sorry for."

O'Keefe was hit with a $20,000 fine from Cricket Australia and suspended from this summer's domestic JLT One-Day Cup by Cricket NSW for making "highly inappropriate comments" in an alcohol-fuelled incident in April.

It was his second booze-related offence in less than 12 months, having been fined $10,000 by CA in August last year for an incident outside a Sydney nightspot.

O'Keefe admits that only time will heal the trust he's lost.

"There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the couple of stuff ups I’ve made," the 32-year-old said.

"I regret it and I’m sorry for what happened. I really am.

"I’m thankful that Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia have provided me with supportive structure for me to resolve some issues.

"I think at times, the reason I haven’t spoken about it is because I think my words can be cheap after stuffing up twice.

"The only thing that will show that will be not three months later, but five years later when I’m settled and happy and long after the cricket lights have gone out and I’m respected personally in the community.

"Only time will fix that."

In between the transgressions, O’Keefe swore off alcohol for the summer in a bid to prepare for the Indian tour, while he also pulled out of last summer’s Big Bash League to focus solely on honing his red-ball skills.

Having battled injuries to his hamstring, finger and calf in the preceding months, O'Keefe's preparation – which included a lengthy pre-tour stint in Dubai, unheard of in the jam-packed cricket calendar – had him in prime condition to partner No.1 spinner Nathan Lyon.

The hard work paid off in a big way when he claimed the best match figures by a visiting spinner in India to lead Australia to an unlikely victory in the first Test in Pune, one of their most memorable wins in recent memory.

Match Wrap: Aussies thrash India in Pune

While he only added seven more wickets to his series tally in the ensuing three Tests, O'Keefe was one of the standouts in the 1-2 series defeat with 19 wickets at 23.69.

Despite the indiscretions, he was widely expected to be included in Australia's touring party for Bangladesh and his omission at the expense of younger spinners Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson came as a major shock.

The decision was labelled "unjust" by Cricket NSW chief executive Andrew Jones at the time, with the selection panel indicating O'Keefe's form after his match-winning effort in Pune had dipped.

"Whilst Steve O’Keefe bowled well in Pune, he did not maintain this level in the remaining matches of the series and we believe the timing is right for Ashton to enter the set-up and test his allrounder ability," chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said in a statement.

While disappointed to originally miss selection for Bangladesh, O'Keefe insisted he admired Hohns' sincerity in explaining why he'd been left out.

"One thing I admire about ‘Cracker’ (Hohns), even though it might be hard to hear sometimes, is that he's up front and honest," he said.

"I certainly respect that. He said they were going down a different path with some younger players which I totally understand, who have played really well in that last Test."

Agar made a tidy return to Test cricket in Dhaka, claiming five wickets for the match – including the key scalp of captain Mushfiqur Rahim in Bangladesh's first innings – and contributed vital lower-order runs on day two, posting an unbeaten 41 to help Australia put on 93 for the last three wickets.

O'Keefe didn't reveal what changes he's made to his lifestyle after his recent punishment and says it would be naïve of him to declare he's "cured".

"It’s a bit of a personal journey and after three months I don’t wat to go into too much detail," he continued.

"What I will say is that I’m extremely thankful, that I deserve the punishments I got, and I completely understand why I got them.

"But Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia have been extremely supportive in providing a structure which allows me to improve and after stuffing up twice in 12 months.

"I’m not going to sit here and say everything is cured and fixed and I’m ready to go.

"I’ve got things I’ve got to work on and facing those issues that I haven’t done in the past can be tough work.

"I’m working on it.

"Hopefully in five years I can sit down and have a coffee with you (the media) and give you the longer drawn out version."


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