Usman Khawaja has an army, where is Stephen O’Keefe’s?

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    New South Wales spinner Stephen O'Keefe got a little loose on the VBs. (Image: Andrew Yates/AAP)

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    Usman Khawaja has an army of supporters ready to defend his honour, along with pushing his case to be selected for Australia. Why doesn’t Stephen O’Keefe?

    Perhaps I need to lead the charge for the recruitment of a legion of fans to voice their disapproval on the way the NSW spinner has been treated by Australian cricket selectors. He certainly deserves to have the same quantity and quality of passionate supporters that Khawaja has.

    Yet for some strange reason, young Uzzy seems to generate far and away the most sympathy when it comes to how he has been treated by selectors.

    On Friday, my Roar colleague Geoff Lemon wrote an excellent piece in which he outlined why he believed it was the correct decision for Khawaja to not be awarded a Cricket Australia contract.

    In the ensuring debate that occurred, I stated that I find the level of support for Uzzy bemusing, and labelled his ‘Khawaii’ fans the ‘Khawaja Army’; though in hindsight ‘Khawarmy’ is probably a sexier name.

    I do indeed find it interesting that Khawaja seems to generate such passion in his supporter base; much more than other players that have been equally stuffed around by selectors over the years.

    As one example, I brought up Brad Hodge, the patron saint of selector negligence.

    A number of Roarers brought up some great points and reasons why the level of outrage over Khawaja’s treatment is so high, and so loud.

    They included the proliferation of social media – along with websites such as The Roar – which have provided fans with a platform they didn’t previously have to voice their disapproval.

    There was also the astute point made that Hodge, for example, had more talented players in front of him than Khawaja currently does, and the not unrelated fact that Australia was winning a lot more Tests when Hodge was struggling to earn a call-up.

    Success does tend to quiet a lot of outrage.

    Roarer Red Kev had an even darker suggestion: that Australian’s love a scandal, and that there is a whiff of racism about Khawaja’s treatment.

    Not for one minute am I suggesting Khawaja hasn’t been selected because of his race or religion, but the fact that it is even mentioned does add serious intrigue and interest to the subject matter.

    Personally, I think the level of outrage can actually be attributed to the two states Khawaja has represented in first class cricket.

    As rugby league’s State of Origin series clearly demonstrates, New South Welshmen and Queenslanders love a whinge. Khawaja’s treatment provides the opportunity for the two states to do just that.

    As I remove my tongue from my cheek, it is worth noting that whinging doesn’t make your point incorrect. I myself have complained loudly and often about Khawaja’s treatment. And while not a card carrying member of his army, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that he has been screwed by the national selectors.

    I just find it bemusing that Khawaja gets so strongly singled out, when other players have a solid case to be just as frustrated with the selectors.

    Callum Ferguson, Tim Paine, Jackson Bird, Joe Burns, Chris Rogers, Chris Hartley, James Hopes, Luke Butterworth, and in particular, David Hussey, are just a sample of other cricketers who would love – or would have loved – to have the same level of support that Khawaja receives from the public.

    Sadly, spots in Jason Krezja’s army are now redundant. Though I’m sure he would have appreciated a strong army when he was dropped one Test match after taking 12 wickets, including eight in the first innings.

    As a sidenote, I think the internet would have melted if it was around for Dean Jones’ axing from the Australian team.

    The point is, many cricketers deserve an army of supporters who will let their voice be heard and castigate the selectors for how they have treated their favourite player.

    And so we come back to Stephen O’Keefe.

    Some Roarers like to believe that O’Keefe has only been dudded once, when he failed to make the touring party for India, despite a 2012/13 first class season in which he took 24 wickets at 22, with an economy rate of 2.23.

    Sadly, much like Khawaja, this is not an isolated occurrence.

    In 2009, O’Keefe’s first class bowling average was 25, Xavier Doherty’s was 50, and Michael Beer’s was 39. All were, and not surprisingly still are, left arm spinners.

    O’Keefe was selected as the spinner for Australia A in the tour match against England. In the first innings, he took the most wickets (4), and also top scored with 66 runs.

    Who did selectors pick for the Ashes series? Xavier Doherty. Who they then dropped, and replaced with Michael Beer.

    So both Doherty and Beer were selected ahead of the spinner chosen in Australia’s second XI, who had a significantly better first class record, who is a much better batsman and fieldsman, and who performed very well in the tour game against the team Australia would be playing in the Tests.

    It would seem baffling selections are not exclusive to the John Inverarity era.

    In any case, where was the outrage over O’Keefe’s non-selection? Where was the O’Keefe Army?

    Incidentally, it’s interesting to note which player made their debut during the Sydney Test of that Ashes series: Usman Khawaja. And if Rob Quiney’s 9 on debut can be called ‘polished’, then Uzzy’s knock of 37 was solid gold. He looked every bit the Test batsman in that game.

    But I digress. Nor do I need to give the ‘Khawarmy’ any more ammunition, for we’ve heard enough from them recently. They’ve stated their case – repeatedly – and while I for one agree with their overall point, it’s time to allow someone else the limelight for a couple of minutes, so let us return to the ‘SOK’.

    O’Keefe’s first class batting average is 31, with a bowling average of 26.

    Those are numbers that genuinely classify him as an all-rounder.

    Yet Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Steve Smith, John Hastings, Dan Christian and Shane Watson have all been preferred over O’Keefe when it comes to the selectors’ love affair with all-rounders. A love that has been unrequited so far, I might add.

    O’Keefe has been treated just as badly, if not worse, than Khawaja has. So where is his army? It certainly seems like he deserves one.

    And you can sign up for it below.


    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (179)

    • April 8th 2013 @ 6:56am
      Robert said | April 8th 2013 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      SOK suffers from living in NSW.If he was from any other state he’d have sympathy and support.But since NSW players get such an easy run to the baggy green,Smith Henriques etc,no has a tear to shed for him

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

    • April 8th 2013 @ 7:10am
      Varun said | April 8th 2013 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      I am a huge khawaja fan but also think SOK deserves his chance, there is no doubting this

    • April 8th 2013 @ 7:52am
      Omega10 said | April 8th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      I’m in! Where do I sign? Give SOK a chance!

    • April 8th 2013 @ 7:54am
      Red Kev said | April 8th 2013 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      O’Keefe’s problem is actually the same as Khawaja’s:
      1 – Someone important in the national CA setup dislikes him; they formed an opinion on him and are not interested in changing it;
      2 – The selectors like to see wickets taken and runs scored in person, no amount of numbers on paper will ever trump watching a great performance in person and SOK’s and Khawaja’s best performances in recent years have happened when selectors have not been in attendance at the shield matches.

      • April 8th 2013 @ 8:06am
        James said | April 8th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        And then the selectors don’t even bother to turn up to the shield final.

        If they don’t want to do the job properly, then they shouldn’t have been appointed.

      • April 8th 2013 @ 8:20am
        Matt F said | April 8th 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Hard to argue. It does seem apparent that they’ve already formed opinions on players and nothing at all will sway their opinions. It doesn’t matter how well SOK plays, or conversely how poorly someone like Maxwell plays (threw that in just for you Kev!) the selectors have formed an opinion on each of them and they won’t change them.

        Inverarity’s comments after the India series, along the lines that they picked the best squad and there will be minimal changes for England, seem to back this up. If the players they pick don’t perform then it’s not the selectors fault as they’ve managed to convince themselves that any other player would have done even worse.

        • April 8th 2013 @ 9:37am
          Dan Ced said | April 8th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report

          Maxwell is an overrated clown, and it sickens me to think they’ve let him prove that in the Test arena now also.

          At least Henriques got one decent score, at least Smith got a couple of decent scores.

          Maxwell did absolutely nothing. I hope he fails miserably in the IPL and never gets a game again.

          • Roar Rookie

            April 8th 2013 @ 5:17pm
            nmj1654 said | April 8th 2013 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

            The anti-Maxwell brigade need to have a good hard look at themselves. He was thrown in the deep end on dustbowls against the best spinners in the world, and scored accordingly, and he bowled very well considering his lack of experience. Over rate is irrelevant considering his average and strike rate.
            SOK would perform no better than Maxwell with the bat.

            • Columnist

              April 8th 2013 @ 5:23pm
              Ryan O'Connell said | April 8th 2013 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

              I’m fairly confident O’Keefe could score more than 13 runs. Which is all he would need to do to perform better than Maxwell.

            • April 8th 2013 @ 6:26pm
              Disco said | April 8th 2013 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

              To be blunt, Maxwell is rubbish.

              • April 25th 2014 @ 11:51pm
                Maximum said | April 25th 2014 @ 11:51pm | ! Report

                Now look at maxwell now

      • April 8th 2013 @ 9:53am
        jameswm said | April 8th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Yeah Kevvie my reading is SOK says what he thinks, and some (I think including the captain) don’t appreciate that. They want to pick yes men (who do their homework).

        With Khawaja it’s a perception that he’s lazy and doesn’t want it enough. Can’t this be worked on while he’s in the team? He still should be there on merit.

        India really buggered him – he would have played the 3rd test if not for homeworkgate.

        • April 8th 2013 @ 10:48am
          Amith said | April 8th 2013 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          UTK will play the ashes, against the swinging bowl he will be bought in.

          • April 8th 2013 @ 4:18pm
            Varun said | April 8th 2013 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

            Agree 100% Amith

            • April 8th 2013 @ 4:36pm
              Shankar said | April 8th 2013 @ 4:36pm | ! Report


      • Roar Rookie

        April 8th 2013 @ 5:10pm
        nmj1654 said | April 8th 2013 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

        Khawaja is vastly overrated by the aforementioned army. He’s the next-best we’ve got but he takes far too long to get a start and then wastes it. Having said that, his technique is unassailable, but his attitude is not.
        He should be picked ahead of Smith seeing as he has just about given up on spin bowling as an art, and ahead of players such as Henriques and Maxwell, the jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. However he must adapt to Test level in a hurried fashion if he is picked, as a disaster in the upcoming back-to-back Ashes series’ could see some careers ended, at least for the next few years (Khawaja, Hughes, etc.)

        • April 8th 2013 @ 5:28pm
          Amith said | April 8th 2013 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

          Fair points nmj16654 but would be fantastic if he actually got a game, give him half the chances given to Hughes and Cowan and we could have a test star in the making.

          • April 8th 2013 @ 7:42pm
            Shankar said | April 8th 2013 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

            It is simple as that, 3 months bench warming and now it’s his time, he is needed in our top order

      • April 8th 2013 @ 6:25pm
        Disco said | April 8th 2013 @ 6:25pm | ! Report


    • April 8th 2013 @ 8:28am
      Matt F said | April 8th 2013 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      One battle at a time Ryan! If we give SOK an army then we have to give someone like Chris Rogers an army as well and there are probably a number of other players that have similar claims. Then there is Ashton Agar who is about to take out a restraining order on David Lord 😉

      When you include the offensive units forming to take out the likes of Doherty and Maxwell, we just don’t have enough troops!

      Have I extended this army metaphor out enough yet? 🙂

      • April 8th 2013 @ 9:21am
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 8th 2013 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        Oh, I’ve got plenty more military puns left in me, Matt. I haven’t even pulled out the heavy artillery yet!

    • Roar Guru

      April 8th 2013 @ 8:29am
      JGK said | April 8th 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      If Australia had played a second spinner in any of the home tests this summer, and SOK wasn’t one of them, I think there would have been a bigger outcry.

      But generally, we do have a serviceable spinner in Lyon so SOK’s continued omission is more understandable.

      Also, I think SOK was injured for a bit of the season wasn’t he?

      • Columnist

        April 8th 2013 @ 8:57am
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 8th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Yes, he did miss time with an injury, JGK.

        And as I mentioned, I think O’Keefe has been overlooked for more than just the Indian tour.

        • Roar Guru

          April 8th 2013 @ 9:50am
          JGK said | April 8th 2013 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          Well yes, the 2010/11 Ashes were puzzling. But at least he was able to continue to play other cricket during that time.

          • Columnist

            April 8th 2013 @ 9:57am
            Ryan O'Connell said | April 8th 2013 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            That’s a fair point. Khawaja hasn’t just been robbed of playing Test cricket, but any cricket at all.

            • April 8th 2013 @ 10:07am
              Timmuh said | April 8th 2013 @ 10:07am | ! Report

              Yeah, Khawaja has had one first class match this calendar year, plus the tour game in India which was not first class and a couiple of ODIs. He hasn’t had a chance to show his worth, or lack of it if things turned out that way.
              Not denying that O’Keefe has been hard done by. Definitely a better first class bowler than Doherty. O’Keefe even won Doherty his debut spot in that Ashes series.

              • April 8th 2013 @ 1:19pm
                Ken Hambling said | April 8th 2013 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

                Lack of crickt for UTK not acceptable, especially given he is one of our best young batsman

              • April 8th 2013 @ 4:37pm
                Shankar said | April 8th 2013 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

                Ken don’t even get me started on this , can’t wait to see him bat in the ashes

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