25/05/2024

Sixers' spinner Steve O'Keefe will be looking to raise the BBL trophy for a third straight tournament this summer (Photo - Sydney Sixers).

Steve O'Keefe played an integral role in the Sydney Sixers' last two BBL titles, and is looking to claim a third before he finishes.

It’s rare that many international cricketers get the chance to finish their career’s on a fairy tale high, but Sydney Sixers and former Australian spinner Steve O’Keefe is raring to bow out of the game by winning a record-breaking third successive BBL crown.

Having convincingly won the past two tournaments amidst difficult conditions, O’Keefe is buoyant about the Sixers’ consistent squad heading into this summer’s edition of the T20 competition. He says that if his Sydney side manages to win a hattrick of BBL’s then it may be his last summer playing professional cricket.

“I’ll see how the body and mind goes, the mental side is the hardest part, especially when you stay out of the system and aren’t training, then your mind starts to relax a bit,” he said.

“We have a great group of young players, Lloyd Pope and Ben Manenti are two great spinners who have done well when given the opportunity – I don’t want to be a handbrake on anyone’s playing career.”

O’Keefe is willing to keep plying his trade as a restrictive spinner but is wary of stepping on the toes of his younger spinning teammates (Photo – Sydney Sixers).

“If we can get that three-peat it’ll be a nice note to finish on.”

Heading into yet another season where the Sixers are the hunted side, O’Keefe has cast his eye over his team’s squad and is confident of figuring in title contention once again. With Englishman Tom Curran set to return, and fellow English batter James Vince signaling his intentions to return to the magenta, the Sixers have a consistent squad full of match-winners.

“With the bookies, we’re always rated at about sixth or seventh or at the bottom, but you look at our squad and we have no flashy player, yet what we do well under Greg Shipperd is we play well as a team,” O’Keefe said.

“We’re aiming to do something special which no team has done before, which is to win three straight, and it’s definitely an incentive of mine to keep playing, as there’s a lot to play for, including playing in front of a home crowd again.”

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O’Keefe is most excited about returning to a proper BBL schedule, where he doesn’t have to enter hubs and play tense T20 matches down to the wire in front of no crowds. With the schedule giving the Sixers five games at the SCG and another two up at Coffs Harbour, the off-spinner is keen to get back in front of packed-out crowds this summer.

“It’s a good balance this year, being at home over Christmas is a big tick, but then we’re on the road for 10 or 11 days which is important because we’re always a team that’s prided ourselves on playing well away from home,” he said.

“To think we might be able to pack out the SCG is amazing, the players I’ve spoken to are more excited than usual.”

Always on the lookout for the next wave of talented cricketers to emerge while playing grade cricket at Manly, O’Keefe has too many names to list that he was excited to see ply their trade in this year’s BBL. He finally settled on some local players, ranging from daring batters from Manly to an emerging leggie.

“That’s the beauty of the Big Bash, you unearth these talents, but I’ll be biased and say Ollie Davies could be one of those special cricketers you see once or twice in your career, like a Dave Warner or Steve Smith,” O’Keefe said.

“Jack Edwards is another Manly player who’s playing Shield cricket, his all-round ability is sensational.”

“You could go on forever, even Tanveer Sangha is another, but each season someone rears their head and performs well.”

With this season potentially being his last, O’Keefe is hellbent on ushering in the next wave of Aussie spinners. He is already working closely with Lloyd Pope while they both stay on the Sixers’ squad. Upon hearing the news of Australia planning to once again tour Pakistan, O’Keefe was confident that the many spinners coming through the ranks had what it takes to dominate in the spin-friendly conditions.

“It’s such good news, we as a country need to be leaders in the game,” O’Keefe said.

“It gives opportunity to the likes of Agar, Swepson, Lyon, Sangha, and Kuhnemann – we’re starting to get a lot of good young talented spin bowlers, and now I genuinely think we have the spin bowling depth to do well over there.”

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