Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
O'Keefe's insight to UAE success for Australia
Australia will get a massive boost before a ball is bowled if Tim Paine calls correctly at the toss
12 September 2018, 03:28 PM AEST
Having experienced firsthand the wrath of playing Pakistan in their adopted home, Steve O'Keefe says the first thing Australia must do to have success next month in the UAE is win the toss.
O'Keefe was part of the Australia squad that was hammered 2-0 by Pakistan four years ago in the Emirates, where he made his Test debut and the 'hosts' won both tosses and amassed massive match-winning first-innings totals.
By batting first in each match, it meant Pakistan's batsmen got the best batting conditions before their ace spinners bowled last on worn, turning wickets and promptly skittled the Australians to record winning margins of 221 runs in Dubai and 356 runs in Abu Dhabi.
O'Keefe says the toss will play a crucial role in the outcome of the upcoming series, and suggested with a smile Australia should try any measure possible to make certain the coin falls favourably their way.
"You need to win the toss," O'Keefe said on the latest edition of The Unplayable Podcast.
"I don't know if you can get a double-sided coin … or maybe see if you can convince the opposition captain to go the old bat toss, hills and flats, and load a bat up or something.
"I think it's really important over there. I say it jokingly but winning the toss is a huge, huge bonus."
Of the 30 Tests played in the UAE dating back to January 2002, the team winning the toss has been victorious 14 times, lost on nine occasions with seven draws.
Pakistan, however, boast an imperious record in the UAE having only lost just one of 11 series played entirely at the neutral location (they lost 3-0 to Australia in 2002, but the first match was played in Sri Lanka).
Their only defeat their came last year at the hands of Sri Lanka, who won the toss in both Tests and elected to bat on both occasions.
There is no sugar-coating the monumental task that awaits Tim Paine's men next month, and O'Keefe outlined just why it's so hard to beat Pakistan in the Emirates.
"They're very good players in those slower conditions and there are times there where you just don't know where your next wicket is coming from," he said.
"And they've got good bowlers who, in those conditions, can shape the ball. So they're consistently trying to move the ball off the straight the whole game with a bit of reverse swing, skid off a length, good air speed - which is important - and they own it.
"Then you've got (leg-spinner) Yasir Shah and I imagine they're going to have a good off-spinner given there could be four left-handers in the top six.
"They are brutally hard and that's before you step out and it's 38 degrees (Celsius), it's hot, and you're playing in places the Pakistan team knows like the back of their hands.
"This is going to be tough. Winning against these subcontinental teams is bloody difficult and this tour is going to be no exception.
"There's going to have to be a fair bit of team building and team bonding before it goes (ahead) if they're going to have success and I wish them all the best.
"This could be the start of a career for these guys that could spur them on for 10 years."
Former Australia allrounder Shane Watson had limited-overs success in Asia, but was never part of a Test series-winning side there.
But having been on the receiving end of bad results in the subcontinent, Watson identified what it takes to achieve a positive outcome.
"It's more so just sticking to your strengths and staying with them for a long period of time," Watson told cricket.com.au.
"That's what the guys who play really well in those conditions, especially the batters, they know what their game is, they don't move away from it and they do it for a long period of time.
"We saw Younis Khan in 2014 (who scored three centuries and more than 450 runs in four innings), he just stuck to his strengths and didn't go outside of that at all.
"And that's also what the Indian players do so well – they don't go outside their box and stick to what their strengths are and not think they've got different strengths."
Qantas Tour of the UAE
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
Sep 29 - Oct 2: Tour match v Pak A, Dubai
Oct 7-11: First Test, Dubai
Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi