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Levi has some serious work to do

I always like to see young players do well and advance their careers. Hence I was very happy for Richard Levi that he played a career changing innings in New Zealand during the T20 international series there. Not only was it a career changing innings in terms of solidifying his position in the South African team, but it also led to a very lucrative financial contract in the IPL.

In fact, I went on record as saying that he should have been kept in the one-day squad as an opening batsman for the one-day series as well. The Proteas expect big things from Levi in the T20 arena. They believe he can be a real factor in their quest for the world T20 title in Sri Lanka later this year. The public also expect Levi to produce big-hitting, match-winning performances on a regular basis.

Against this background I must say I am concerned about his form slump during the MiWay domestic T20 series. In six innings for the Cobras, Levi totalled just a 134 runs at an average of 22. He scored one fifty during the campaign. One has to accept that Levi's approach is high risk. He is used as an impact player at the top of the order so it is inevitable that sometimes things will go wrong. The problem is that if he is going to be a match winner at top level for South Africa, irrespective of the fact that he is expected to dominate from the outset, he won't get away with a one out of six success rate. In an ICC competition six matches may encompass the whole event for one team and for a player to contribute just once in an event like that won't do the trick.

Hence Levi has to take a look at why and how he has been losing his wicket during the domestic phase. There could be a number of reasons, like shot selection, strategy, concentration etc. He has to work through this problem with his coach and come up with a tactic whereby he is still aggressive and qualifies as an impact player but is a lot smarter in terms how he goes about the construction of his innings. He has a propensity to get caught at square leg, so taking on the boundary fielder at square leg on a small ground may work but it may not on a bigger boundary.

Opposition teams at international level do their homework. They have already worked out that having a left-arm seam bowler bowling wide of off stump is an effective ploy against Levi. Most teams will refine their strategy against the attacking South African opener. They will see plenty of him during the IPL as well. By the time the world T20 comes around there won't be much mystery surrounding the scoring areas of Richard Levi.

This is what makes the game of cricket fascinating. Levi has to take stock of his present situation and come up with an answer so he stays a step ahead of the pack all the time. What he can't do is sit back and think that playing on instinct without any thought will continue to work at top level. Cricket is a great leveller and hopefully Levi and his advisers will realise this and make a concerted effort to keep his feet firmly on the ground and ensure that he becomes the match winner in the shortest version of the game that the Proteas management want him to be.

In terms of pure performance he is a long way down the list of top batsmen in the nearly completed T20 domestic competition. If anything, this should be a wake-up call. The best position to bat in T20 cricket is at the top of the order. The top three get the benefit of the majority of the overs and one expects your international opener in this format to dominate at domestic level. This unfortunately hasn't happened.

In the long run it may be a good thing that Levi has had a bit of a slump since his amazing innings in New Zealand. It will teach him that no matter how good or how talented a player is, nothing can be taken for granted in this game. Unfortunately the old adage about only being as good as your last game is not far from wrong. I, for one, think that Levi will do fine in international T20. He should win matches for his country and provide tremendous entertainment. He is one of the reasons why I am looking forward to next week's T20 match against India.

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