There is something about the Bushveld that appeals to cricketers. Whether it’s the quiet night sky, the unblemished beauty, or simply the free time away from the city spotlights, it seems to be a favourite among all.
Dale Steyn is a great admirer, so too is Jacques Rudolph, while the Morkel brothers spend most of their free time there. Now, Richard Levi too has got “away from it all” for a couple of days ahead of the second edition of the 1-Day Cup.
Levi has more reason than most to seek some solitude. The past 12 months has been a rollercoaster ride for the 24-year-old from Kommetjie, with the former schoolboy prodigy experiencing more highs and lows than South Africa’s ever-fluctuating Rand. The zenith was, of course, the blitzkrieg 117 not off 51 balls against New Zealand in Hamilton in only his second T20 international appearance, which led to a multi-million dollar IPL contract with the Mumbai Indians to the nadir of a second-ball duck against Australia in the World T20 in Sri Lanka.
“Yeah, I just needed to get away from it all for a little bit. It’s been non-stop for the past 18 months and I needed time to reflect on a few things. Although I was part of the Mumbai squad for the Champions League T20 here and would like to have maybe played at Newlands, I actually haven’t played a single game since Colombo besides the warm-up in Paarl the other day,” Levi told the Cape Times.
“Look, the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka didn’t go so well for me, and that’s obviously disappointing. But I’ve realised a few things and have actively tried to do something about it going forward.”
Besides Levi’s technical limitations, especially against top-quality spin bowling, that were exposed in Sri Lanka, it was clear that for a young player he was not in the best physical shape. Although his hitting strength is born from his physique, Levi was too bulky and it was impressive to see a particularly slimmed-down version now.
While it is no doubt Levi’s intention to remain in the selectors’ thoughts for the international home summer approaching, this bodes well for the Cape Cobras in the immediate future, where Levi will open the innings on Sunday against the Dolphins in Pietermaritzburg.
The powerful right-hander was instrumental in the Cobras’ charge to the inaugural title last season, topping his team’s run-scoring charts with 424 at an average of 53.25. Although it included a rollicking century against the Highveld Lions at the Wanderers in the preliminary games, it was his patient 84 in the final against the Warriors at Newlands that showed he had the technique, and more importantly, the patience to construct an innings over the course of 50 overs.
“The 1-Day Cup last season was a good launching pad for my T20 success, for the Proteas too, so I look forward to putting some big runs under the belt in the 1-day Cup again. That will hopefully give me momentum and we will see what happens from there.
“It’s 50 overs per side, here in South Africa, with an innings almost three times as long as those in Twenty20 cricket, so I can play a bit differently,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins will be boosted by former World No 1 ODI bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who is set to make his debut for his new franchise against the Cobras after moving from the Warriors.
LIKELY COBRAS TEAM
Andrew Puttick, Richard Levi, Stiaan van Zyl, Justin Ontong (capt), Yaseen Vallie, Justin Kemp, Dane Vilas, Johann Louw, Dane Piedt, Charl Langeveldt, Beuran Hendricks.
Today: Titans v Lions, Centurion, 2:30pm.
Sunday: Dolphins v Cobras, Pietermaritzburg; Knights v Warriors, Kimberley (both 10am).