The Momentum One-Day Cup comes to a close on Friday evening at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, where the hosts, the bizhub Highveld Lions, take on the defending champions, the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras.
One man the Cape side will be hoping for to get their innings off to a good start, will be Richard Levi. The 24-year old Johannesburg-born batsman has endured a torrid time at international level, ever since he bludgeoned the New Zealand attack in the second T20 international at Seddon Park in Hamilton back in February this year.
Levi smashed a world record 13 sixes in a knock of 117 not out off just 51 balls, to set the world alight. Everybody who is anybody in world cricket had the name of Richard Levi on their lips. But since then, nothing has worked for the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras opening batsman. Levi's T20 World Cup did not go according to plan as the burly right-hander only scored a total of 62 runs, which included a top score of 50 not out. Since then, people have questioned his international ability.
"People have concerns whether I can play international cricket. I've had four or five bad games in T20 cricket, but you ask any player, it either goes for you or it doesn't," said Levi from the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras training session at Sahara Park Newlands on Wednesday.
"It is good to be back at the Cobras and scoring some runs again," added Levi.
Andrew Hudson, convenor of selectors and Russell Domingo, the newly appointed T20 national coach will be announcing the squad to take on New Zealand in Cape Town on Thursday. When quizzed about the selection announcement, Levi said, "I've scored some runs and found some form, so I hope I'll be selected. If I don't then I've just got to keep performing for the Cobras and take it from there."
"Domestic form is a good indicator of international form, but the two do not always correlate. You will get some guys who can perform very well domestically but cannot step up internationally," stated Hudson in an interview on Wednesday.
"He (Richard Levi) might say that he has not performed internationally, but for a lot of players like Richard, it's all about building knowledge, building your skills and ability to perform in any environment," Hudson added.
Levi said that there has been no change to his technique this season, he has just "gone back to what worked for him last season."
"(Richard) Pybus (former Cobras coach) sat me down last year and said these are the things you need to work on and I kind of forgot what they were. But since I came back here, Justin Kemp has helped me a lot to get those little things right, and I have worked on my mental state," added Levi.
Was Levi 'worked out' after the second T20 against New Zealand? Not so says Hudson. "I think their plan is just to take the pace off the ball. Richard is going to have to adapt his game and learn how to change and adapt to different situations.
“Initially you play a certain way, and that gets you through, which is fine, but it happens to every cricketer that after a while guys analyse you, they get to grips with your game, your strengths and weaknesses. It's not about being found out at international level, it's about him growing his game to be able to cope with different situations and circumstances," said Hudson.
"There is no doubt that he has enormous potential," added Hudson.
"I think part of Richard's stepping up is working on his game, bringing something new each season, almost re-inventing yourself, but that's just the modern game," stated Hudson on Levi's future within the national set-up.
Hudson gave a strong indication that the Cobra's 'master blaster' might just be included in the T20 squad for the upcoming series. "We are meeting on Thursday and it (Levi's selection) will be one of the areas to be discussed. There is no reason to discard him or any of the youngsters at this stage, it's more about understanding where he is with his game, what he is working on and what his potential is."
Levi has certainly staked a claim for a call-up as he sits atop the runs scorers list in the Momentum One-Day Cup with 573 runs at an average of 63.66 and a strike rate a touch over 107. Levi has four half-centuries and one ton to his name, a magnificent 166 against the Nashua Titans at Boland Park in Paarl.
Has Levi grown his game enough this season to warrant a call-up? We shall see, but his focus will be entirely on Friday's match, where an in-form Levi might just tame a roaring Lion!