South Africa-born New Zealand star Devon Conway’s meteoric rise in world cricket has been nothing short of phenomenal. Three years after moving to New Zealand, he made his international debut in late November 2020 and has featured in all three formats.
After being promoted from his usual No.3 position to the opening slot during his Test debut against England at Lord’s, Conway became only the sixth player to score a double century in his maiden Test innings on Thursday.
The left-handed batsman’s rich vein of form continued as he put his team in a comfortable position in the first game of the two-match series, in the lead-up to New Zealand’s World Test Championship final against India.
Conway’s 200 off 347 balls guided the Black Caps to a first-innings total of 378, and, just like others dear to him, his Wellington Firebirds coach Glenn Pocknall expressed his delight.
“The levelness Devon has in terms of his mentality played a big part in his success. He’s on a massive high, and he has to keep riding this wave and believing in himself. I’m excited to watch him shine on the global level,” Pocknall told Sportstar.
“The key is that he didn’t do anything different. He just treated it like another game. Everybody in the world knows that it’s not just another game. It’s his debut at Lord’s. However, his mindset was so relaxed. He was determined. I’m lucky that I got to see it all closely, just the way he trains, the way he focuses on getting better every single day. All his efforts paid off in the end with the double ton,” he added.
New Zealand opener Devon Conway on Thursday became the sixth batsman to hit a double-hundred in his debut innings in Test cricket. – GETTY IMAGES
The 29-year-old wicketkeeper has also featured for South African franchises Lions and Dolphins, and has had stints in the Lancashire League and Somerset’s second XI too.
Conway moved to New Zealand from South Africa in August 2017 and starred for Wellington in domestic cricket. He had to wait for three years before making the debut for his adopted nation due to ICC regulations.
Conway initially struggled to cement his place in the Wellington playing XI. But he has emerged as the outfit’s most important player now, having topped the scoring charts in five out of the country’s six domestic tournaments through the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.
His exploits in the Plunket Shield (first-class), Ford Trophy (List-A) and Super Smash (T20) have set the bar high for his Firebirds teammates, according to Pocknall.
“Initially, it was a challenging transition for him because he came to New Zealand with nothing. The first time we saw him was during a trial game, and he was playing at number 10. He was keeping. So, you think about it, only four years ago, he was batting at ten. It’s crazy. That’s how low he started his career in New Zealand, right at the bottom,” the former batting coach of Ireland women’s side said.
“But we saw enough that impressed us. We thought this guy has something special. Tom Blundell got caught up with the Black Caps, and someone got injured, then Devon came in, and he did well in the nets. He made his way into the team and just continued to perform well. He kept getting better. He’s had a couple of great domestic seasons and set the bar pretty high for others.
“Devon dominated cricket here before being offered the New Zealand contract. If he were anywhere else in the world, he would’ve been in the team earlier, but due to the ICC regulations, in terms of eligibility, it meant he couldn’t play.
“Two years ago, he got a triple hundred at the Basin Reserve against Canterbury. That was the highest score ever at that venue. He had faced some top bowlers back then — including international New Zealand players Matt Henry and Todd Astle. He hit them all over. He eventually got lots of runs, and the selectors just had to pick him because he displayed how good he was,” added Pocknall.