Levi’s huge challenge ahead
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Wow, it didn’t take long for “lightning” to strike in Richard Levi’s international career, did it?
catapulted to most talked-about cricketer on the planet on Sunday,
courtesy of his multiple record-smashing century for the Proteas against
New Zealand in the second Twenty20 international before a shell-shocked
full house at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
And that’s quite something for a 24-year-old (he turned that last month) playing in just his second game for his country.
writers and tweeters have no doubt exhausted all the traditional
superlatives already as they describe his 117 not out, 51-ball carnage
against the Black Caps, which saw South Africa romp to a handsome
eight-wicket victory with four full overs to spare.
series-levelling wins go, this was as emphatic as it gets and the
pole-axed hosts, you feel, will do incredibly well now to climb off the
canvas and claim Wednesday’s decider in Auckland, again at 08:00 SA
Still, T20 is a funny old game and it is on that score that
Levi - another product of Wynberg Boys’ High for their pupils past and
present to crow over, even as they continue to glow with pride over the
broad cricketing exploits of Jacques Kallis - will have some thoughts to chew on after the back-slapping eases.
he is in a relatively unique position, perhaps realising before too
long that just his second outing for South Africa may never be
personally emulated again.
To use the expression “it’s all
downhill from here” might well sound unnecessarily negative and overly
dramatic, but in statistical terms that might well be very much the case
for Levi, at least as far as the T20 arena is concerned.
about it: his knock was so freakish in its levels of devastation that
even when a hopefully lengthy career at the top flight comes to an end
one day, February 19 2012 on the North Island of New Zealand may yet
turn out to be his most memorable occasion in the green shirt.
for a second am I suggesting Richard Ernst Levi will come to be known
as a one-knock wonder - quite clearly he has some special qualities as a
limited-overs opening batsman - but he is probably going to find it
hard, at least for a while, to live up to the giddying, meteoric hype he
created in this match.
People will flock to see him in one-day
combat - there’s got to be at least a fair chance he will somehow winkle
his way into the Proteas’ ODI plans on this very tour - and be
“disappointed” for the short- to medium-term future whenever he gets out
for a cracking 45 or 50: that’s how quickly expectation can take hold
It is also the inadvertent price he will pay for
rewriting cricket stats so sweepingly at pretty, postage-stamp Seddon
Park where even his mis-hits had spectators fearing for the safety of
their skulls and, almost as importantly, watermarks on their beer cups.
T20 international century of all time, most sixes in an innings,
highest score by a South African... these are rare landmarks to boast.
while the beefily-built Levi (even those who frown on slightly
excessive girth by professional sportsmen may well excuse him that
phenomenon at present) failed by one run to stand alone for highest
score in the format, sharing the company of established T20
super-leaguer Chris Gayle is hardly to be sniffed at.
left-handed Jamaican, some eight years Levi’s senior, ironically
achieved his own pyrotechnical 117 - dismissed, mind - against South
Africa, in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 on our shores in September
Comparisons are interesting: Gayle used up 57 deliveries in
total at the Wanderers, six more than Levi did, and 88 of his runs came
in boundaries to the Cape Cobras favourite’s quite amazing 98 (13 sixes
and five fours). Gayle’s strike rate was 205; Levi’s 229.
demoralisingly for Gayle at the time, presumably, his epic innings
wasn’t enough as the Proteas still roared over the line against West
Indies by eight wickets - at least in Hamilton Levi was the match-winner
by a mile.
Encouragingly from Levi’s perspective, perhaps,
Gayle’s performance came in just his fourth T20 innings for West Indies,
yet he has stayed one of the hottest properties in the code since,
albeit that the lion’s share of his involvement more recently has been
as a hired gun for various franchises worldwide.
too, Levi has already served a couple of educative, “difficult” years as
a cricket professional generally, and come out of the relative darkness
commendably unscathed: he had once been touted with almost unreasonable
gusto by some critics when he was a SA under-19 batsman and once out of
age-group level found the going tough at times.
So it is
unlikely that he will make the mistake of letting Sunday’s sublime
showing give him a swollen head - he came across as pleasant and
measured in his immediate post-match television interview, which was
gratifying to see.
Some credit must go, I believe, to Gary Kirsten
and company for the gradual nature of his filtering into the
international environment: selected for the SA squad for the pair of T20
games against Australia earlier in the season, he didn’t see immediate
service but would have learnt much just being “in the room” for a while.
in a post-Gibbs era for the Proteas, South African fans have every
right to feel excited about this hard-hitting new boy on the top-order
Just don’t expect three figures to be raised off 45 balls
by Richard Levi every day. With a bit of luck, he won’t be spooked by
that not happening, either ...
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing