Ripley admits ending 'great servant' Levi's Northants career was 'a tough decision'
David Ripley admits it was a 'tough decision' to end Richard Levi's Northants career.
It has been confirmed the 33-year-old will not be offered a new contract, meaning Levi's nine-year stint as a player at the County Ground is over.
Since joining the club in 2013, Levi has been a constant presence at Wantage Road and was a major player in the Steelbacks T20 team, helping the club to two Blast title wins, and another final appearance in 2015.
But the runs have dried up in the past couple of seasons, scoring only 196 in 10 innings last summer, and then this year mustering just 46 runs in five innings, which included 30 in what proved to be his final appearance for the club against Leicestershire Foxes on June 20.
The player's fate was more or less decided at that point, as he was completely overlooked for the Royal London One Day Cup campaign, but Ripley, who himself will stand down as head coach later this month, admits it was a very difficult decision to make.
"We decided we weren't going to offer Richard a contract for next season, so with that being the case, we wanted to give Richard the opportunity to try and find a 50-over competition elsewhere, but nothing came up for him," said the Northants head coach.
"But his time here has just come to its end, really.
"Richard has been a great servant, and he has been here all the time that I have been here (Ripley took over as head coach at the back end of the 2012 season), and we have shared some great moments.
"There were those two final wins in which Richard certainly played his part.
“He has been with me as a head coach right from the very beginning and some of the greatest days I’ve had in cricket he’s been there.
“We’ve all seen him on a Friday night under the lights when he’s been very destructive and almost impossible to bowl at when he’s going at his best.
"But in recent times he has dropped off, and I think the run of T20 games he has had from 2020 through to 2021, which is about 15 matches, he has not given us the return we would have wanted.
"It was a very tough decision, and the timing of it was made with Richard's best interests at heart."
Although widely regarded as a T20 specialist and big-hitting white-ball player, Levi also made his mark in the first-class game, and as recently as 2017 was second in the club's first-class averages, having scored 734 runs at an average of 46.
"There were those years when he was in his pomp, when he was batting four or five in the Championship team and averaging 40," remembered Ripley.
"He was also opening the batting in T20 cricket, and then Richard was a cornerstone of our side, but I guess now four or five years have ticked by since those days.
"We just felt as a club that it was time to look elsewhere."
Levi was hoping to play a major role in a successful T20 Blast summer in 2021, but his tournament started with a first ball duck in the match against Worcestershire Rapids, and he never really got going after that.
"I feel for Richard, because I did see him hitting the ball really well in the warm-up games," said Ripley.
"I thought 'wow, he could have a really great competition for us', and it just didn't work for him in the five games he played.
"It is never easy when players leave, and Richard is disappointed with that decision."
Ripley also paid tribute to Levi's work with the club's younger players behind the scenes.
“He’s helped a lot of younger players in his time here and not a lot of people would have seen how he’s given his time to help players develop behind the scenes," said the 54-year-old.
“I wish Rich all the best, he’s been a great ambassador in his time at Northamptonshire.
"It was a difficult decision, it’s always tough when someone leaves after a long period of time but I hope he’ll look back fondly on his time at the club.”