Cricket star ‘ashamed’ of off-field drama

Hours after he retired from first class cricket, former Australian spin bowler Steve O’Keefe has confessed to feeling “ashamed” by irresponsible off-field behaviour throughout his career.

Despite being the highest wicket-taker of spin bowlers in the 2019/20 Sheffield Shield, the New South Wales Blues announced on Sunday they had opted not to offer O’Keefe a contract next season. However, the veteran tweaker will continue to represent the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League.

Although he boasted an impressive record in international and domestic cricket, a series of alcohol-related incidents plagued O’Keefe’s career. In August 2016 – a few days after returning from a Test tour to Sri Lanka – he was issued with an Infringement Notice by NSW Police for offensive behaviour at The Steyne Hotel in Manly, and was fined $10,000 by Cricket Australia.

“We expect a high standard from our players on and off the field, and in this case, Steve failed to meet those high standards,” Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Johns said.

O’Keefe redeemed himself by snaring a career-best 12/70 during his Australia’s memorable victory at Pune in February 2017. It remains the greatest bowling performance by an Australian bowler in India.

But two months later, Cricket Australia fined O’Keefe $20,000 for making “highly inappropriate comments” while drunk at a cricket function.

Steve O’Keefe claimed 35 Test wickets for Australia.Source:AFP

“There is no time or place for unacceptable behaviour from any of our players in Australian Cricket, and we continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to this," CA head of team performance Pat Howard said.

“We're extremely disappointed this situation occurred, particularly on the back of a previous incident, and it now overshadows Stephen's on-field performance on the recent tour of India.”

O’Keefe only played one more match for Australia following the incident.

Speaking to ABC’s Corbin and Ben radio show, the 35-year-old confessed off-field incidents “absolutely” impacted his international cricket career, and was “disappointed” by his behaviour.

“What the Australian team and public deserve is not only cricketers, but good role models,” O’Keefe said on Sunday.

“Absolutely, I dropped the ball not once and twice, and I’m really ashamed of the way that I’ve behaved.

“Cricket Australia really put in a lot of support networks for people when they do drop the ball like I did … and I don’t hold any grudges because of that.

“It was never said to me, ‘You did this, so you don’t deserve this,’ but I know for a fact that if I behave better and do all the right things, then you get that opportunity.

“I’m disappointed, but I don’t make any apologies for myself.

“The only regrets I’ve ever had in cricket aren’t on the field, they’re off the field.

“I’ve tried my best to improve … It’s a work in progress.”

An open and honest interview with former Australian spinner Steve O'Keefe on 'Corbin and Ben' with @CorbinMiddlemas and @BenCameron23

O'Keefe announced his retirement from first class cricket today after NSW decided not to offer him a new contract.

New South Wales teammate and Channel 7 presenter Trent Copeland honoured O’Keefe’s career on Sunday, tweeting he was “one of the best finger spinners to ever play the game in this great state”.

O’Keefe played 88 first class matches since making his debut for New South Wales in 2005. He claimed 224 wickets in the Sheffield Shield, the fifth most of any spin bowler for New South Wales.

The left-armer also played nine Test matches and seven T20 Internationals for Australia.

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