Levi to focus on T20 ahead of World Cup - SA selector
After Richard Levi's record-breaking century in the second Twenty20 against New Zealand in Hamilton many thought he had earned an automatic place in South Africa's ODI squad. They thought wrong. Levi will not be retained for the ODI-leg of the tour and, along with Colin Ingram and Rusty Theron, will return to South Africa after the final fixture in Auckland on Wednesday.
Levi was not included in the original 14-man squad and despite his eye-catching performance has not been added to it. Instead, the selectors chose to stick to their original plan of opening the ODI batting with Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith.
"It's important that we honour the selection process in terms of the 14 guys that have been selected for the ODIs," Andrew Hudson, convenor of selectors said. "It's unfortunate that Richard will have to wait his turn."
Smith's place was under scrutiny in the last series he played, against Sri Lanka, which may have opened the door for Levi to step in. A lean run, in which Smith had not scored an ODI century since September 2009, ended with an emotional hundred for the former captain at the Wanderers in January. On the back of a meaty half-century in the fourth match of the series in Kimberley, Smith sealed his place for the immediate future, leaving no room for Levi or another opener to take his place.
Even if a gap had been created by Smith's poor form, Levi was not the first-choice to fill it. Test opener Alviro Petersen played in Amla's place against Sri Lanka when the latter had to miss three matches because of the birth of his first child. Levi has a List A average of 31.14 and finished as the seventh highest run-scorer in the one-day cup. Dean Elgar was the top run-scorer and was included in the squad to play Sri Lanka in January, but suffered a knee injury and has not played since. He hopes to be back to full fitness in the next two weeks.
The decision not to extend Levi's stay in New Zealand was in keeping with the selection panel's vision to groom him in one format first, the shortest one. Levi will return home to play in the domestic twenty-over competition, the MiWay challenge, for the franchise who are defending the title, the Cobras.
Also, there is interest being shown in him from various IPL franchises. "[IPL] Franchises are interested in his services and offers have been made," Levi's agent, Arthur Turner, told ESPNcricinfo. "I spoke to Richard yesterday and he said he wants to concentrate on the Twenty20 that will be played tomorrow. He will return home after that and then we will discuss it, so no decision has been made yet."
Levi's century has also secured him one other thing: a ticket to the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, if Hudson's comments are anything to go by. "We need to focus, nurture and grow him, and get him ready for the [Twenty20] World Cup in September," Hudson said.
Hudson was also careful not to say Levi would be regarded as a specialist and confirmed that he could be considered for future one-day squads. "In terms of his one-day aspirations, I am hoping that that will follow in due course," Hudson said. "He is a fine player and I hope one day he represents South Africa in the ODI format as well."
Edited by Nikita Bastian
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent