Devon Conway: “I can communicate more clearly in various T20 scenarios now that I play in high-intensity games.”

An essential component of Chennai Super Kings’ championship victory was the New Zealand opening. He considers his season’s experience and how it affected his own play.

During the last two months, Devon Conway traveled throughout India with the Chennai Super Kings in preparation for the IPL. He was named Player of the Final in Ahmedabad, where it all came together to win a title. Conway discusses a campaign that is dear to his heart in this conversation

What made the three-day Twenty20 match that resulted in CSK’s fifth IPL triumph so special?

incredibly unusual—a rollercoaster of emotions. I drank a lot of tea to stay awake that late at night while we waited for the rain to stop, not knowing how many runs we would score in the chase. It was somewhat disconcerting. Mike Hussey, the batting coach, said to me right before I batted, “Mate, think you want a can of Redbull to stay awake?” Given how late it was, it was difficult to maintain mental alertness. I had a Redbull can to help me stay alert and focused. It made sure that I was ready for the first ball.

We had never experienced something like it, so it was actually pretty cool to end the game that way. The way that Jaddu [Ravindra Jadeja] won it by hitting ten off two made it even more thrilling, and the boys continued to celebrate well into the next day.

How did the festivities go?

It was absurd. Many of the players were late for their flights. Moeen Ali and her family rescheduled their trip for one day later. The flight of bowling consultant Eric Simons was canceled. Only his relatives arrived in time, as Dwaine Pretorius missed his flight as well. We all celebrated and soaked in the highs and lows while hanging out in the team room till almost nine in the morning. MS Dhoni was in the center of everything. After a fantastic day together, some of us headed directly to breakfast while others went to bed.

When you won Player of the Match in the championship game, did that surprise you?

Yes, that’s right. Indeed. Sai Sudharsan, in my opinion, played a great knock. Jaddu himself had a fantastic ball and bat game. Even though Ambati Rayudu’s cameo didn’t seem like much, it changed the game. Indeed, I was taken aback, but ultimately, I don’t care about taking home or winning certain honors. It is my dream to win awards with my group.

Saying it was the “biggest win of your career” and waking up to a social media tempest made you say, “oops”?

(laughs) The time was roughly 3:30 in the morning. We were experiencing a wide range of emotions, and I doubt that I expressed what I meant when I said it. Winning the WTC final was undoubtedly an incredible experience and a true highlight, but this victory was also right up there with everything else I’ve accomplished thus far. After that, I had a few hours of banter with a couple men from New Zealand, but other than that, everything was OK.

Sportsmen sometimes make mistakes in the excitement of the moment that they later regret. Just as I did in 2020 when, in the semi-final, I punched my bat out of fury and missed the T20 World Cup final. My finger was broken, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but it cost me a final. But it teaches us all a lesson.

What is it about CSK that inspires gamers to go above and beyond?
At the top is where culture is established. It feels like a family. To make you feel at home, they all go above and above. They planned a South Indian-themed wedding celebration for us the previous year. I was completely taken aback by it; I had no idea how much work went into it, particularly in a bio-bubble. Kim, Conway’s spouse, participated through Zoom. They had planned exquisite décor, delicious cuisine, traditional attire, and music. It was an unforgettable evening of pleasure. And everyone—those I knew and others I was only getting to know—had a role in it. That fosters positive energy and a feeling of community.

There’s consistency on the cricket front. Players are aware that no matter what, they will have support if they are selected. They don’t give a damn if they are bowled out for fifty runs in four overs or if they are consecutively given three single-digit scores. Players have room to grow, thrive, and improvise without feeling extra strain or scrutiny. It gives players self-assurance in their actions.

Ruturaj Gaikwad and you get along well. Tell us about the situation.
Both on and off the field, we get along pretty well. I’m impressed with how he bats. He’s attractive when he gets going, but having a calm, composed guy beside me also comes in handy when there’s a lot of pressure to overwhelm the competition. Knowing that you’re all in this together makes things much simpler for the non-striker. Rutu is often aware of when I am pushing myself too much or making the incorrect decisions. There is a great deal of honesty and transparency between them because he will tell me right away.

Many people draw comparisons between your game and Michael Hussey’s. What have you learned from him?
He has been very beneficial. There are a lot of similarities: both are left-handers who, although not being the best players around, utilize their other abilities to their full potential to be as effective. Frequently, my thoughts and emotions align with what I believe he must have been experiencing. Having the opportunity to talk about and ask questions about different events and situations was quite consoling.

Stephen Fleming, your coach, has a reputation for being organized. It is well known that MS Dhoni disapproves such team gatherings. For you, how did that go?
It’s an excellent pairing. Flem’s learned to minimize the amount of time spent in team meetings. It’s fantastic that I don’t think team meetings last more than three or four minutes. Not that there is much to discuss. Flem is aware that the group’s members have a great deal of expertise and are aware of what it takes to succeed. That instills confidence in us players that he’ll let us express ourselves freely and that the outcomes will work themselves out.

As a group, they benefit greatly from the mix of Flem letting guys go about their business and MS’s laid-back attitude toward meetings, which ensures that they know what they need and how to win games.

How do you and Dhoni relate to each other?
I’ve had the good fortune to spend a good deal of time with him. I watched a lot of IPL games with Moeen, MS, [Ajinkya] Rahane, and myself in the team room. We spoke about various teams and tactics, as well as life in general, and not just cricket. I have a great relationship with MS; we have a lot of banter and he always comes out with these funny one-liners. I’ve started returning it to him now (laughs).

There is a great deal of respect. He always seems to have an aura around him when he enters a space. Because of his standing in cricket and his accomplishments, you want to speak with him and hear what he has to say. We had the good fortune to spend a lot of late evenings and early mornings playing pool. When MS and I were on the same team, we would frequently play Moeen and Tanvir, who is essentially his godson. And we would return to the hotel after a match, and our games would begin between two and three in the morning. We’ve laughed a lot and had some really positive conversations about those games, how to handle various circumstances, and other related topics.

It seems that your keeping sessions with him were really funny.
Having honed his skill over a long period of time, I imagine he finds it difficult to articulate his methods because they come so naturally to him. The meetings were lighthearted. Since I’m still just part-time, what was actually simple for him was extremely complicated for me. He and I have different wavelengths when it comes to practicing wicketkeeping. The fact that he quits training made it much more amazing.

Which skills do you think you’ve improved on?
I believe that my on-side ball access has improved. That was previously one of my restrictions. It’s improved, but it’s not where I want it to be. While I wouldn’t have gone to lap and scoop shots very frequently in the past, I’ve started to learn more about them as an option. Attempting to expand my skills and try new things has become part of my toolkit. To put it simply, just playing a lot more of these intense games has improved my clarity and experience in a variety of T20 cricket settings. There is still room for development and future directions for growth.

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