Fresh from returning to New Zealand and winning an IPL title with the Chennai Super Kings, Devon Conway has reflected on his successful campaign.
Going up against the Gujarat Titans in a rain-affected final that was shifted to its reserve day, Conway put on a Player of the Match performance scoring 47 runs off 25 balls after Gujarat set a total of 215 to chase.
The weather continued to hamper proceedings in Ahmedabad – under the DLS method, CSK’s target was reduced to 171 off 15 overs. Led by former India skipper MS Dhoni, the Super Kings won by five wickets.
After finishing ninth last season and being ‘disappointed’ by those results, Conway was buoyed by the way his side bounced back in 2023 and the impact he had.
“I was pretty happy to be given the opportunity to open the batting throughout the season and be backed by Stephen Fleming and the captain MS Dhoni,” Conway told SENZ Mornings.
“It was a proud opportunity for me to grow my game and express myself in the IPL.”
So, how did his game grow?
Conway admits he hasn’t played much T20 cricket at the highest level and had to deal with a few learning curves in his batting game, including the best approach for straight ‘bodyline’ deliveries.
“Every T20 game’s got different scenarios, different situations, and how to attack those different moments of the game has been great to lean on (those) experienced guys to improve and move forward,” Conway explained.
When playing for the Blackcaps, Conway has donned the wicketkeeping gloves at times – while in the IPL, the South African-born Kiwi star leaned on the experience of his captain to improve his fielding skills both with the gloves and in the outfield.
Game time with the gloves never came this season, but he calls his time in India an ‘eye-opening experience’.
“He (Dhoni) is very well-liked in India, he’s pretty much worshipped there,” he added.
“To see the following and support they have for him is incredible. Every away game we had was pretty much a home game because of all the supporters travelling to support MS Dhoni.”
Conway and his teammates would like to think those fans made that effort for the team – but happily concedes that the travelling faithful were primarily there for the captain.
“It was special – a different world than what we’re used to. I don’t think he’s able to do much outside the hotel due to his fame,” said Conway.
At the helm of Chennai is Stephen Fleming, one of New Zealand’s greatest cricket captains.
Since his playing days, he has etched out equally impressive careers as a cricket commentator, but also a coach with the Super Kings where he’s been in charge since 2009.
“He’s got the respect of the players,” the batter said.
“The way he runs the show there, he drives a good culture, he’s got a good relationship with MS and the franchise owners as well. Having his support is very important and beneficial for us as a group and individuals.”
That culture has driven success with CSK winning five IPL titles in his fourteen-year tenure.
With the ICC’s ODI World Cup being held in India later this year, Conway believes playing at the grounds that will likely feature during the tournament has helped him discover how greatly conditions can vary.
“Playing in Chennai it was more of a spin surface, so you’d probably carry three spinners, same as Lucknow. But if you played in Bangalore or one of the Mumbai grounds, it’s going to be slightly more batter friendly.”
If selected for the Blackcaps’ World Cup squad, Conway’s recent experience could be invaluable to the New Zealand side where he hopes to play in the opening three of the batting order.
But wherever Gary Stead may put him in the lineup, he’s hopeful that NZ skipper Kane Williamson will be fit and ready after sustaining a knee injury during the IPL season.
Listen to the full interview below.