Levi to lift SA’s T20 game?

2012-01-24 16:00
Richard Levi (Gallo Images)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - If logical progression holds any value, South Africa will field at least one new cap when they open hostilities against New Zealand next month with the first of three Twenty20 internationals at Wellington on February 17.

And that player will be 24-year-old Cape Cobras master blaster Richard Levi, selected for the squad which tackled Australia in the last T20 mini-series earlier this season - the Proteas were a little fortunate to escape with a 1-1 outcome after a remarkable tail-end fightback at the Wanderers - but unable to get a game.

The powerful stroke-player, who is not shy to go the aerial “maximum” route, at least got a feel for involvement in the national set-up and it would make no sense to suddenly omit him from the T20 plans in New Zealand.

Indeed, legendary former Western Province and South Africa batsman Peter Kirsten is just one critic who believes Levi should not be pigeon-holed as a T20 player and instead also be considered for the one-day international arena as a high-octane factor at the top of the order.

Domestic statistics this summer certainly back up the claims of Kirsten, half-brother of current national coach Gary.

Levi lit up the 50-overs 1-Day Cup competition, where his 424 runs at an average of 53 played a key role in the Cobras adding that silverware to their healthily-stocked cabinet; he ended the campaign by striking 84 in the Newlands final against the Warriors on December 9.

Nevertheless, T20 is considered his true forte and this is an important year for the format as the ICC World Twenty20 takes place in Sri Lanka in September.

The fourth edition, it has never been won by the Proteas, who have not yet even reached the final - and they presently lie a so-so fourth on the ICC T20 rankings behind England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

There is a case for saying South Africa have not always differentiated enough between the 50-over and 20-over formats, with too many of the same personnel arguably entrusted with activity in both codes: Levi could be just the fresh new face needed in the latter.

It will be interesting to see exactly how the Proteas approach their various T20 commitments leading up to the global tournament, considering that in bilateral series in the recent past they have sometimes rested some of the biggest-name cricketers in the national set-up.

For the three T20 contests with New Zealand, it is probably safe to assume that the side will differ fairly substantially from the one which played the last game against Australia at the Bullring.

The line-up for that game, where Wayne Parnell and Rusty Theron spared South African blushes as they turned a parlous 84 for seven into successful chase-down of 148 to win, was as follows: Amla (capt), Smith, Ingram, Duminy, Botha, Miller, Kuhn, Parnell, Theron, M Morkel, Tsotsobe.

Assuming that no “resting” is planned for the New Zealand T20 matches, additional players like AB de Villiers, Albie Morkel, Jacques Kallis, Faf du Plessis, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn and Levi are bound to come forcefully into the picture.

Also to chew on is the brilliant form in the Australian Big Bash of veteran Herschelle Gibbs, now a globetrotting Twenty20 specialist.

*Levi will be among several South Africans hoping for maiden Indian Premier League deals when the player auction for IPL 2012 takes place on February 4.

His base price has been set at $50 000.

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