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Crisis-hit New Zealand need Devon Conway to arrest his uncharacteristic slump

Last updated on 03 Nov 2023 | 06:30 AM
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Crisis-hit New Zealand need Devon Conway to arrest his uncharacteristic slump

After the 152* against England, Conway has since managed just 126 runs in six innings

Of all the terms you’d associate Devon Conway with, ‘one hit wonder’ would probably be the last.

In his three-year-long international career, if there’s one thing Conway’s batting has been synonymous with, it’s consistency. Not just across formats but also across conditions. 

However, 33 games into this World Cup, the left-hander finds himself in the midst of an out-of-character slump that is unusual, atypical and, in many ways, unprecedented. 

Conway’s maiden World Cup campaign got off to the perfect start imaginable as the southpaw smoked a flawless 152* to leave England shell-shocked. The rampant ton set the tone in this World Cup for the Blackcaps, who would then go on a four-match winning streak. 

After the blitz in the curtain-raiser, Conway was heavily backed to be among the highest run-getters in the competition, but in what’s been an inconceivable slump, the 32-year-old has since managed just 127 runs across six digs. 

Post the England encounter, the southpaw has not gone past fifty and has found himself dismissed under thirty 66% of the time (4/6). 

Added context to this slump makes Conway’s rut even more puzzling. It is not like the southpaw has been struggling because he’s been playing on challenging surfaces that have produced low scores. The average first innings score across these six games — in which Conway has failed to pass fifty even once — has been 312. The 300-run mark has been breached thrice in these matches, including once by New Zealand (against the Netherlands). 

What, then, is ailing Conway?

Well, it’s been a bunch of bizarre, soft dismissals that have been a direct result of poor execution (of shots) as much as anything.

Against the Netherlands, he holed out to deep mid-wicket, attempting a slog sweep. Against Bangladesh, he got trapped in front after failing to put the bat to the ball while attempting a reverse paddle, while against both India and Australia, he picked out a fielder down leg whilst trying to dispatch deliveries that were ‘hit-me’ balls. 

He only really got undone by an exceptional delivery in the Afghanistan game, where he got foxed by a sharp in-ducker from Mujeeb, bowled at a quicker pace. 

New Zealand and Conway, thus, can both take solace from the fact that there’s no technical flaw that has crept in, leading to a slump. 

However, this downturn in fortunes is still a concern, nevertheless, due to a multitude of other factors. 

None, though, bigger than the timing of the slump.

Conway has lost form at the worst possible juncture from a New Zealand perspective, given the progression of their fixtures. 

Ideally, New Zealand would have wanted their premier batter to be firing on all cylinders towards the back end of the group stages, considering they were slated to face all of India, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan in the second half (last five group matches). But Conway’s slump has coincided with the toughest fixtures, and that has really handicapped the Kiwis. 

New Zealand being on a three-match losing streak, with Conway posting 0, 28 & 2 in the said games, is more than just a mere coincidence. 

The other aspect — with respect to the timing of the slump — is the absence of Kane Williamson. In their skipper’s absence, New Zealand needed their second senior-most batter in the top 4 (Conway) to accumulate runs consistently, but Conway’s drop in form has stung the Blackcaps.

Across New Zealand’s last five matches, Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell have done all the heavy lifting with little support, having scored a whopping 44.0% of the team’s runs. This figure rose to 57.16% across the India and Australia clashes. 

The Kiwis would arguably have gotten over the line in both the India and Australia clashes had one more specialist batter supported Ravindra & Mitchell, but that never came about. 

Stand-in captain Tom Latham has been guilty of severely underperforming, averaging just 30.20 in the tournament so far, but it’s hard not to look at Conway as the biggest disappointment of all: not only due to the experience (relative to the conditions) and pedigree he possesses but also due to the unprecedented success openers have enjoyed in this competition. 

Considering that, his returns  —  outside the England clash —  have been underwhelming. 

Only a fortnight ago, New Zealand looked like they were nailed on to make the semi-finals, but a hat-trick of losses later, the Blackcaps’ World Cup campaign is suddenly at a crossroads. 

With good form and good luck both deserting them at the wrong time, the Kiwis are in desperate need of an inspired showing to lift them up and drag them into the semis.

Only time will tell if Devon will be able to show them the (Con) way yet again. But considering his track record, and considering the fact that he smashed a 45-ball 83 the last time he set foot in Bangalore, don’t be surprised if he roars back to form against Pakistan at the Chinnaswamy on Saturday.

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