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Levi call ‘not a train smash’

Auckland - It’s a World Cup year, and in a World Cup year, it’s not always today’s result that is the immediate focus. At least, that is the view of South African convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson.

The World Cup is, of course, the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September, and Hudson views the planning for that event as far more important than the Proteas’ T20 series “final” against New Zealand at Eden Park on Wednesday.

South Africa's Richard Levi hit a 117 off just 51 balls in a T20 match against New Zealand on Sunday. Credit: AP

Hudson has certainly had plenty of discussions with coach Gary Kirsten while he’s been in New Zealand, because the pair are almost in perfect synergy, much like when they opened the batting for South Africa during the 1990s.

Kirsten has tried to give all his players time in the middle during the three-match T20 series against the Black Caps, and has manipulated the batting and bowling line-ups to view a certain player in a set situation – which explains why Wayne Parnell strode out at No 3 in Hamilton. The fact that he was not an instant hit does not seem to deter Kirsten – or Hudson, for that matter.

“We back Gary 100 percent, totally understanding what he is trying to achieve,” Hudson remarked.

“Of course the team want to win, but at this stage, it is not completely results-driven, and to have that mindset within the pressures of professional sport is incredible.

“It’s about following the process that ultimately pays dividends at the World Cup.”

But it is not just on-field gameplans that require monitoring. A 15-man squad need to be decided upon come September, and the current brainstrust are not afraid to stretch their net to find the right personnel. And importantly, when discovered, like Richard Levi at the moment, the structures around him are good.

“Some people think (simply) throw him in and give him a run,” Hudson said.

“Grooming is also about getting used to the culture, getting to know the guys. In hindsight, it was great learning for (Levi) to feel comfortable in the new surroundings. We never intended it this way when we picked him, but it seemed to work out like this.”

Levi will have to wait a while longer for his debut in one-day internationals despite the clamour for him to be added to the 14-man squad set to face the Black Caps in three matches after the T20 series.

The new T20 world-record holder will return home on Thursday as originally planned, leaving Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla to start the Proteas’ ODI innings.

“We have to honour the guys we have. To change and manipulate now would be wrong. Let’s see it for what it is: Richard was picked for T20s and he’s delivered in one of them. It’s not a train smash, he has a whole career ahead of him,” Hudson said.

Although Levi is one the younger members of the squad at 24, and fellow debutant fast bowler Marchant de Lange is still only 21, there is a growing number of familiar faces returning to the squad. Justin Ontong and Albie Morkel lead the way here, forming the skeleton of the “middle-tier” players, like Hudson has described them.

“We have guys who are coming back, and they have played a lot of first-class cricket, they know their games. They know what they need to do, and a guy like Justin Ontong has gone about it magnificently,” he added.

“We might be building, but we don’t have a young side, neither do we have an ageing team. Our average age is 28.”

Hudson has also had to manage a rotation policy, mostly involving the senior players. Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Smith missed the T20 series in New Zealand, and Hudson believes this management decision will be mutually beneficial to the team as well as the individuals.

“We haven’t really consulted them, but we have to manage them well, with the amount of cricket being played this year. They would never be able to get through the volume of cricket if they had played all the games, and at the same time it is a fantastic opportunity for the youngsters,” he said. - Cape Times

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