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SOK backs young leggie to succeed

Australia could be looking at their next 200-wicket Test spinner in young leggie Mitchell Swepson, according to Steve O'Keefe

Stephen O'Keefe leapfrogged him into the Test side just months ago but the veteran believes it's only a matter of time before young leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson begins a career in the Baggy Green that could yield more than 200 Test wickets.

Axed from Australia's squad for their Qantas Tour of Bangladesh this year, O'Keefe was then recalled for the second Test to form a three-pronged spin attack alongside Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar.

It meant Swepson, who had been selected in the original touring party, continued to carry the drinks and fulfil net bowling duties for a second straight series having also gone on, but not played a game during, the preceding Test tour of India.

Far from sulking at being overlooked, O'Keefe revealed a strong-willed Swepson had taken the snub in his stride and tipped that the two tours will have benefited the Queenslander greatly.

"If he was disappointed, which I think he had every right to be given that situation, he certainly didn’t show it," O'Keefe told cricket.com.au. "He was always positive doing his duties."

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And while O'Keefe expects fellow finger-spinners living through the era of Nathan Lyon – the most prolific Australia has produced – to have only limited opportunities in the coming years, he believes Swepson's point of difference as a wrist-spinner could see him play a leading role in the Test side.

"I don’t think it will be long before he does play and when he does play I think he’s going to do a great job," O'Keefe continued.

"Nathan is world-class, if not the best bowler in the world over the last 12 months, but if there's a chance to play a leg-spinner I think he would slot in and do a fantastic job.

"The things that he might have learnt in the last couple of months particularly touring India and Bangladesh, and the confidence he got out of bowling to those guys (means) he probably thinks now that he's ready.

"That confidence will be invaluable, the experience that he got to spend with the Australian cricket team will be invaluable for him.

"If in 10 years’ time we’re looking at a guy who's got 200 Test wickets bowling leg spin again, which we haven't seen for a while, I think he’ll look back on that and really draw on those experiences.

"I’m sure when he does get his chance he will do really well."

If the first half of his JLT Sheffield Shield season is anything to go by, Swepson's subcontinental adventures appear to have aided his development

With 16 scalps at 36.62, he's the equal leading wicket-taker among spinners through five matches and he snared his maiden five-wicket haul in Cairns last month.

His career record of 57 wickets at 33.89 after 19 first-class games – all played at Australian venues that largely provide slow bowlers with little assistance – suggests the 24-year-old leggie is a serious talent.

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Those numbers compare favourably to the first-class stats of Adam Zampa, the West End Redbacks leg-spinner who, after 34 first-class games, has 97 wickets at 45.92.

Noting O'Keefe's praise, Swepson said the tricks he picked up from the two Test tours were "priceless".

"To get that praise from him is obviously a massive confidence boost ... because Steve himself is a great bowler," Swepson told cricket.com.au this week.

"I would be happy if I took one Test wicket. It's good to know that people are supporting what I do.

"It was great that we had four full-time spinners (in Bangladesh and India) and then if you throw 'Maxi' (allrounder Glenn Maxwell) in there as well, there was five of us that were all bowling at the same time in the nets and just having great conversations.

"We picked up little things and just learnt off each other.

"I picked up the great end of that bargain being the inexperienced player and I was more the sponge and picked up all the advice that I could.

"It was a great experience in itself just bowling in a different environment. Those conversations were priceless."

O'Keefe, now in his 12th season of first-class cricket, believes Australia's spin stocks are as strong as he's seen, calling out Jon Holland and Zampa in addition to Lyon, Agar and Swepson.

The 33-year-old is realistic about his own hopes of pulling on his Baggy Green again, though perhaps more optimistic than he had been before his surprise recall in September.

Australia captain Steve Smith indicated earlier this year that selectors have one eye on their next tour of India and Agar made an encouraging return to Test ranks in Bangladesh.

Mitch Swepson's big turner bowls Warner

O'Keefe has partnered Lyon in the past two Tests at the SCG, traditionally Australia's most spin-friendly first-class venue, and admits playing in an Ashes Test at his home ground would be a special occasion.

"The message I got from the selectors was that they were looking at younger guys," O'Keefe explained.

"They’ve got some great spin bowling qualities around the country in young guys and these young guys are taking wickets with the likes of Swepson and Agar.

"I know my place, I completely understand what path they want to go down, if they want to pick those guys because I think they're starting to hit their straps.

"In saying that, personally you'd love to play in an Ashes Test and I’d love to play at the SCG. I don’t think anything would beat an Ashes Test at home at the SCG.

"Whether that will happen or not, we’ll wait and see."

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