Australian commentator Kerry O’Keefe’s barb towards India’s first-class competition came back to bite him in the Boxing Day Test with opener Mayank Agarwal slamming a superb half-century on his debut.
India had handed Agarwal his international debut in the third Test against Australia which got underway at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Wednesday. The opening batsman was drafted into the side as a replacement for the injured Prithvi Shaw after his stellar displays for Karnataka in the domestic arena over the past year or so.
The right-hander scored 1,160 runs from 13 innings in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season at an astounding average of 105.45. He followed that up with a further 723 runs in the Vijay-Hazare Trophy as he smashed the record for the most runs (2,141) by any Indian batsman in a single domestic season.
However, his achievements in the Ranji Trophy were belittled by O’Keefe during the Boxing Day Test with the Aussie commentator mocking the level of the competition.
Commentating for Fox Sports alongside Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, O’Keefe said, “Apparently he got the triple (ton) against the Railways canteen staff.”
Former Australia batsman Waugh too couldn’t resist getting a dig in, saying that “his (Agarwal’s) average in India is 50 which like 40 in Australia.”
O’Keefe’s comments did not go down well with Indian fans who took to social media to express their displeasure at the Aussie’s distasteful comments.
Agarwal then gave O’Keefe a befitting response with his bat as the debutant put together a 76-run knock in his maiden Test innings as India accumulated 215-2 on the first day of the Boxing Day fixture.
Kerry O'Keefe said the Indian domestic system has teams like "Canteen XI" where the bowlers are Chefs and Waiters.— 1 Tip 1 Hand (Edges & Sledges Cricket Podcast) (@1tip1hand) 26 December 2018
Was trying to undermine Mayank's domestic record.
Mark Waugh also said "his average in India is 50 which is like 40 in Australia"
It might just be me, but it's pretty uncool to ridicule the FC comp of another country while using dubious stereotypes for a cheap laugh...— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) 26 December 2018
O’Keefe is a buffoon. That diatribe on the #RanjiTrophy competition was a. Classic casual racism, b. Disgracefully inaccurate. Strong competition providing an excellent breeding ground for test cricket. I thought we’d got rid of this rubbish with 9 losing the gig.— Adelaide Barmies (@AdelaideBarmies) 26 December 2018
Opening the batting along with Hanuma Vihari, Agarwal was fearless in his approach as he played some delightful strokes in front of a packed MCG crowd. Although his 161-ball innings was brought to an and by Pat Cummins at the stroke of tea, Agarwal had put the tourists in a strong position on a pitch which was showing some alarming signs on day one.
All in all, it was a splendid display from a batsman who supposedly can register triple centuries only against an opposition filled with ‘canteen staff’.
There is no doubt that O’Keefe’s comments were made in poor taste given the fact that the Ranji Trophy has been serving India’s first-class needs since 1934 and has thrown up hundreds of performers for the national team over the years.
O’Keefe’s remarks smacked of arrogance and his choice to equate the Railways first-class team to ‘canteen staff’ was shocking to say the least.
In the end, the irony of Agarwal, who came into the team on the back of his Ranji performances, shutting down O’Keefe with a fine show against Australia’s best bowlers was hard to miss.
“I was mentioning the runs Agarwal got in first-class cricket in India and there’s been a reaction. There was no way I was demeaning the standard, it was tongue in cheek. There are lots of runs scored so apologies if anyone out there took offence,” the Aussie stated later in his commentary stint.
The apology might have come a little too late from the Australian with most of the damage already done. Hopefully, after Agarwal’s Melbourne bow, O’Keefe will have a much better understanding of the Ranji Trophy and the calibre of batsmen it can produce.
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