Devon Conway, the South Africa-born batsman who plays for Wellington, will be eligible to represent New Zealand from August 28, the ICC has confirmed.
Conway left Johannesburg in September 2017, at the age of 26, to try and forge a cricket career in New Zealand. He had played extensively at provincial level, the second tier of South African domestic cricket, but had struggled to make an impression in his sporadic appearances in top-tier franchise cricket.
The move to New Zealand has been vastly productive as far as Conway’s batting returns go: in 17 first-class games for Wellington, he has scored 1598 runs at the stellar average of 72.63, with four hundreds including an unbeaten 327 against Canterbury last October, only the eighth triple-hundred scored in New Zealand.
The extent of Conway’s appetite for runs can be gauged by the fact that he topped the run charts in all three domestic competitions in the 2019-20 season – the first-class Plunket Shield, the List A Ford Trophy, and the T20 Super Smash – and in two of the three tournaments in 2018-19. Conway’s stupendous 2019-20 run also coincided with Wellington bagging the Plunket Shield and Super Smash double.
With those numbers behind him, Conway seems almost certain to join the likes of Grant Elliott and Neil Wagner as South-Africa-born-and-raised cricketers to play for New Zealand.
“It’s really awesome to have that solid date, 28th of August, as a date, as a reminder to say that you’re pretty close,” Conway said in a media teleconference on Tuesday. “In saying that, it doesn’t guarantee selection. So I am pretty pretty happy to hear about that, but you’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully get an opportunity to break into that Black Caps team which is pretty awesome at the moment, you’ve got world-class players there, and it won’t be easy to get into that team.”
The ICC has granted Conway an exceptional circumstance dispensation, which means he can play in tour games before his August 28 eligibility deadline, leaving him available for selection for New Zealand’s tour of Bangladesh, which is scheduled to start on August 12, or for New Zealand A’s tour of India, which is set to begin on August 15.
The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe and putting all cricket – and all sport – in suspension, however, means those dates only exist on paper for now.
“Little bit mixed feelings at the moment,” Conway said. “Obviously really happy to hear the news about my eligibility, but then again, in saying that, with regards to what’s happening at the moment throughout the world, just puts [everything] in perspective.”
Conway has not been able to bat during the lockdown that’s in place in New Zealand, with all training facilities shut, but he’s continued to work on his fitness.
“I’m trying to do as much physical work as possible, as it allows me, but I also try and focus on doing some of those eye exercises that are quite important to me, and using skills like boxing to stay active – I’m enjoying that recently,” Conway said. “There’s not a lot that we can do, but as much as you can do, it’s important to do during this period.”