International players have to lift their game in the IPL: Levi

Richard Levi says the IPL is a learning curve for him.

By Lokendra Pratap Sahi

Calcutta (The Telegraph): South Africa’s Richard Levi, who holds the world record for the fastest hundred in T20 Internationals, spoke to The Telegraph on his feat, the Indian Premier League (IPL), Sachin ‘The Master’ Tendulkar and a host of other topics.

The following are excerpts

Q Just how much has life changed after your record-creating innings in Hamilton (on February 19)?

A The turnaround has been rather quick... I went back from New Zealand after the T20 Internationals, trained for a while and, then, came for the IPL. Sure, things have been a bit different... Even with the cap on and sunglasses, people have been recognising me in India.

What was your thought process during that innings?

Watch the ball well and hit it well... Hashim Amla got out rather early and we then lost Wayne Parnell, but (captain) AB de Villiers calmed me down... We had a 100-plus partnership. We were one-down in the series and, so, had to win. We did.

Were you aware that you’d broken Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum’s record?

I had absolutely no idea... It’s when I was coming off, that a radio interviewer told me about the record. In fact, I thought I’d played 60-70 balls for my hundred, not just 45.

Did you look at the scoreboard often?

After I’d got to 70 or so, not before.

Nobody bought you at the auction this year, but the Mumbai Indians took you on board as a replacement for Andrew Symonds, after you’d made headlines...

The calibre of players at the auction is usually high... I’d been wanting to play in the IPL and it felt incredibly good when the Mumbai Indians gave me an unbelievable chance.

Sachin is with the Mumbai Indians. What’s it like sharing the dressing room with him?

I first met him at the hotel’s pool in Chennai, during a pool session ahead of the IPL’s first match... A few days later, I opened with Sachin and he kept telling me to enjoy the experience... Everybody looks up to him. Even though I haven’t been playing of late, he’s been giving advice... Telling me what options to look for.

It must be disappointing that you’ve been played in only six matches...

I realise that the IPL squads have a big pool of players to choose the playing XI from... There’s variety... Also, in T20, form is a massive factor... I understand that the combination could get tricky and that the dynamics of the team may change (as the tournament progresses). It’s a bit frustrating, yes, but I understand the situation. The international players have to constantly lift their game in the IPL. There are so many of us, but only four can make the XI. Actually, it’s good to have such competition.

How challenging is it to bat on wickets in India?

Oh, the wickets are so completely different, from one end of the country to the other... Even at one centre, the wicket may behave differently... As there’s no consistency, you’re never quite sure how the wickets will behave. One has to adapt and be prepared for any eventuality.

What’s the best way for a batsman to approach a T20 game?

Some batters go for it from the first ball, others take a few balls to settle down... I feel that you should have a game plan which works for you... Once it’s there, stick to it. You may need to have minor adjustments, as the conditions are bound to vary.

There’s pressure and there are expectations in the IPL...

Of course, yes. But it’s a learning curve for somebody like me.

Early on, who had the biggest influence on you?

A coach by the name of Chris Ridley... Thanks to him, I always played above my age group... While at junior school, I’d play for the high school and so on... When I was nine, I’d met Gary Kirsten at a Reebok event... I was very young, but remembered his advice: ‘Enjoy, have fun and enjoy the experience of playing cricket’... In more recent times, Richard Pybus had a big influence.

Much later, Gary worked with you as a batting consultant...

Yeah, for a few months in 2007, before he became coach of India.

That Gary’s now the South Africa coach must be great for you?

Gary certainly understands my game, knows what I do, knows what I want to do.

Quite a few people felt you should have been added to South Africa’s ODI squad after your Hamilton innings...

Yes, but I myself didn’t think I’d done enough to be guaranteed a one-day berth... Right now, my goal is to make the ODI squad and, then, look at Test cricket.

Have you looked up to any opener?

I’ve admired two, both with such an awesome presence at the crease — Virender Sehwag and Matthew Hayden, who has retired.

Any other batsman, generally?

One gets bowled over by the elegance of Sachin and Jacques Kallis.

The last one... Did you wake up feeling different on February 20, the day after you authored the world record?

(Laughs) Not really... It hadn’t sunk in... Moreover, our trainer said that no matter what I’d done for South Africa the previous day, I still had to go for the four or five kms run! Hashim was my running mate that morning.

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