Australia's Steve O'Keefe stunned India with 12 wickets in Pune.
Australia's Steve O'Keefe stunned India with 12 wickets in Pune. Rajanish Kakade

Jury still out on O'Keefe, says Harbhajan

CRICKET: Australian antagonist Harbhajan Singh has doubled down on his pre-season criticism of Steve O'Keefe, saying he'll reserve judgment on the spinner's incredible 12-70 until he bowls "on a good Test match wicket".

Singh made several bold pre-series predictions, saying Australia was "the weakest Australian side to tour India", would be swept 4-0 and that even if the tourists played at their peak the best they could hope for would be a 3-0 loss.

Those statements were made to look foolish after India crumbled inside three days in Pune, with O'Keefe proving the destroyer by jagging 6-35 in each innings to shred the host's famed batting line-up.

O'Keefe's match figures were the 11th best from any Test bowler in India and the best ever by a touring spinner.

But Harbhajan, who admits he's been "trolled" on social media for his predictions since India's meek capitulation, remained unimpressed.

"I will have to see him bowl on a good Test match wicket. Not this one. Till then, I will reserve my comments," the 103-Test veteran was quoted as saying in The Indian Express.

Harbhajan, who averaged 38.90 per wicket outside of India but a far more impressive 28.76 on the spin-friendly wickets at home, intimated O'Keefe was simply the beneficiary of the rank turner prepared in Pune.

"You don't need to flight the ball or anything," he added.

"You just need to bowl fast and not give the batsmen room to either come down the track, or be able to manoeuvre the ball around.

"Bowling six deliveries in the same spot is all you need to get wickets on such tracks."

The Pune deck was described by Australian great Shane Warne as an "eighth-day wicket" before a ball had been bowled, and India opened their innings with star spinner Ravi Ashwin -who generated significant turn in the early overs.

"To be honest, that wasn't a pitch," Harbhajan said.

"Test cricket should last five days. You cannot play on such wickets where anyone runs in to bowl and takes wickets.

"I have played in over 100 Tests, and I know how hard I had to work to earn every single wicket.

"When you prepare such a wicket, you are making conditions favourable for the opposition as well. That's what happened in Pune.

"When I say a good Test wicket, I mean a strip where the ball does not shoot up from the first day itself."

News Corp Australia

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