The 29-year-old South African-born Devon Conway has had a remarkable start to his international career. After three ODIs, he is averaging 75 and made a maiden international century in his most recent game, while in T20Is, he is averaging 59.12 with an impressive strike rate of 151.11 having twice been left undefeated in the 90s, including an unbeaten 99 against Australia in Christchurch.
The southpaw continued his brilliant run on his Test debut smashing a double century against England at the historic Lord’s. Conway broke a handful of records on his way to putting his name on the Lord’s honours board.
However, it was not an easy journey. Cut back to 2017, the 26-year-old Devon Conway was struggling to find his feet in South Africa’s domestic circuit. While he scored heavily in South Africa’s second-tier tournament, Conway managed only 12 matches for the Lions averaging 21.29, including one half-century.
Sold car, properties to move to New Zealand
He scored an outstanding double for Gauteng in March 2017 – his first in eight years, that turned out to be his last innings in South Africa. After talking to his best friends who were playing in New Zealand and his partner, Conway decided to shift his base in search of a new dawn in his cricketing career.
Although he had to downsize his living style leaving his big car and huge lands in Johannesburg, Devon Conway’s career got a purpose amid the simple living style in Wellington, where he found his new home.
Upon landing in Wellington in August 2017, Conway started his career for Victoria University Cricket Club as a player and coach while he used to teach young cricketers to make his living. This was the time when he grabbed the attention of Bruce Edgar – head coach of Wellington and his deputy Glenn Pocknall.
He was called for List A Ford Trophy games when their first-choice wicket-keeper batter Tom Blundell was called up for national duty against West Indies. Devon Conway was again called for a T20 game as a last-minute back-up for Blundell. And he made the most of those opportunities.
Three years down the line, Conway has played 17 first-class games scoring 1598 runs at the stellar average of 72.63, with four hundreds including a triple century. He has emerged as one of the leaders in Cricket Wellington and has extensively worked with Glenn Pocknall, who is currently the head coach.
In an exclusive chat with Cricfit, Cricket Wellington’s head coach Glenn Pocknall speaks on a range of topics on Devon Conway’s rise, what transformation he brought in Conway’s batting and what’s in store for him in the future:
Q.1) Devon Conway was called as a replacement for Tom Blundell for a few List A Ford Trophy matches. Bruce Edgar was the head coach and you were the assistant coach at that time. What prompted you to pick Conway, who had just landed in New Zealand a couple of months back?
Glenn Pocknall: We had seen Devon play in a trial match we played a few months prior and he had been scoring heavily in club cricket so when Tom got called up to the NZ team Devon was the natural replacement to come in and play. He impressed in all aspects of being around the team, with the gloves and slowly but surely he began to find his feet as a batsman.
Q.2) What were your first thoughts after watching Devon Conway?
Glenn Pocknall: First time we saw him play he looked impressive and he played a shot through the covers that at the time Bruce and I looked at each other. We knew he had some skills from that one shot and we knew we had something to work with. He also had and still does have a fantastic attitude which means he always willing to challenge himself and looking to improve.
Q.3) Is it fair to say that Conway’s case has been South Africa’s loss and New Zealand’s gain?
Glenn Pocknall: We are very fortunate that Devon choose to ply his trade in NZ as he clearly had some skill so it’s very much a case of New Zealand’s gain.
Q.4) Conway has time and again credited you for his transformation. What exact changes did you make that completely changed the cricketer?
Glenn Pocknall: We looked at ways that would best enable him to have consistent movements and get in consistent positions as we felt by doing this he would firstly score more consistently and secondly be able to access all areas of the ground to score runs. Devon researched some of the world’s best players’ techniques and we incorporated and discussed these before landing on one that fitted well with him. It involved a pre-movement with his feet prior to release which in turn gave him this positioning we were looking for. What people don’t see is the 5months of daily training to ingrain this into him to make it natural as it was a big change for a 27year old who has always batted a different way
Q5. Does Conway has the ability to be among the best in the business like Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, and Joe Root?
Glenn Pocknall: Yes he does and what I believe separates him from a lot of other cricketers is he has an ability to handle challenging situations and in these situations remain calm and clear. The game has so many perceived pressures so if you can just play and enjoy each ball for what it is then you give yourself the best chance. The start of his international career in all three formats suggests he has such a bright future ahead of himself.