Devon Conway, the South Africa-born batsman who qualified for New Zealand this August, is just “focusing on the task on hand” as he braces for a much-awaited international debut.
Conway, 29, led the run-charts in the Plunket Shield, One Day Trophy and T20 Super Smash last season, and has been in fine form for Wellington even this year, scoring 157 against Auckland earlier this month. His exploits earned him a place in New Zealand’s T20I squad for the upcoming home series against West Indies, and he is looking forward to something “pretty special” over the next few weeks.
“It’s all very exciting that it’s happening. I’m just looking forward to getting out there for a potential debut,” Conway said. “To be honest, I don’t listen too much about the expectations people have for me. I think about staying in the moment and to focus on the task at hand. Whatever else happens, happens. I try to get away from that sort of thing.
“You never know when an opportunity is going to come, so you want to be ready and not look to far ahead. That’s how I look at it. It’s been pretty special – being with this group of players, and the environment and culture they have, getting to know them better. All that being said, I’m still waiting for the final XI for tomorrow to be announced.”
Like most teams, New Zealand have not played an international game since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Conway doesn’t expect the players to be too rusty.
“Most of the guys have been away with the CPL or IPL, so there won’t be any new stuff to get used to. They know about their roles and the game plans. Right now, the boys are just looking to get out of isolation and bring their different energies together. It’s all about being mentally ready. These guys are coming from the CPL, so they’ve already seen most of the bowlers and played against them. That’s an advantage for us. They’ve been working and training for a while, so preparation wise, it’s not a problem for us.
“With the T20 World Cup coming up in 2021, it’s about working out all the positions and the best XI. And learning to execute your roles, be it in New Zealand conditions, Australian conditions or Indian conditions. It’s pretty cool looking into the stuff behind the scenes. There are opportunities to see various players come and right now New Zealand are just looking to build a pool of players who could make that T20 World Cup squad. It’s exciting times for New Zealand cricket.”
Conway himself got some much-needed practice with the New Zealand A team in the past week, scoring an unbeaten 46 and 41 against the touring West Indians.
“I definitely gained a lot of confidence,” he said. “Having the opportunity to play against some international bowlers was a big boost. Having the time out in the middle, I can take the confidence into the T20s as well, even though it’s a different format. I know that even international bowlers can miss sometimes, so you can’t let the pressure get to you.
“Luckily with the shorter format, everything happens faster. It’s about calming the nerves, understanding the situation at present, and tackling it head on. In Tests and four-day matches, the pressure is with you longer. In T20s, you have to adapt as quickly as possible.”
Conway also confirmed that he will be throwing his weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement on the field.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t had the opportunity to meet together with the West Indies players. But Timmy (Tim Southee) and the management met with them, and they briefed us about the movement. It was awesome to hear about [how] we can support and get behind them tomorrow. It’s a really good initiative that is creating awareness worldwide. Now it’s all about backing that decision and supporting it anyway we can.”
Eng vs NZ 2021 – ‘Players have got to show desperation and earn the right to stay in the side’
Thorpe, who was a part of the England team that slumped to the bottom of the unofficial world rankings with their 2-1 series loss in 1999, said that he hoped this defeat would spur a similar quest for higher standards among the class of 2021, after he himself played a central role in the Nasser Hussain-led team that went on to win four series in a row in 2000-01, including their first against West Indies in 32 years.
But, Thorpe warned, while today’s selectors were far more tolerant of short-term failure than they were at the start of his own career in 1993, the management would need to see evidence of greater mental application than was the case in the past two Test matches. That was particularly the case in the second innings at Edgbaston, where England slumped to 76 for 6 and ultimately 122 all out.
“We have some younger players in our team who are still developing and we’re wanting them to improve,” Thorpe said. “But sometimes the intensity and the spotlight of Test cricket, when you’re up against a good team like New Zealand, just highlights how much of a challenge our players found their decision-making and the execution of shots.
“Whatever technique you have, the basics are still the same,” he added. “You have to get in, you have to be positive in your defence, leave the ball well outside off stump and play straight. These are the things that have applied to batting in Test match cricket for as long as it has been going.
“So it is a mental skill to be able to train the brain to do these things, and if anything we’ve been lacking consistency in that area.”
“If you look at the techniques of all our batters from Sibley to Burns, to [Ollie] Pope to Lawrence, you can go down our batting order and to me it comes down to decision-making,” Thorpe said. “They have all scored runs at Test level and so it is about doing it more consistently and that is a mental thing really.
“It is about coping with the anxiousness when you first go out there and once you get in, and things become easier, it is about being hungry to score runs and to stay out there to accumulate. You can do that in a number of ways, rotating the strike, putting overs into the bowlers and making them work hard, and then we have the players who can take advantage.
“We have the talent, but you have to mentally push yourself on further as well and that is the area where we have fallen down in this series.”
The wider concern for England, who face India in five Tests from August before heading to Australia for the Ashes in December and January, is that the batters who failed against New Zealand were, broadly speaking, among England’s first-choice picks.
“He’s young, both in terms of age and his Test career,” Thorpe said. “He’s played 14 matches and he’s starting to get an understanding of what Test match batting is all about.
“He’ll be very frustrated. It is important for him to keep learning about what it takes to keep himself at the crease. That is the thing he will be most disappointed about in this series, but he has got to reflect and learn from what has happened. If he goes away and keeps working at his game I’m sure he will be successful, but you do have to learn from these moments so that when you come back you are better for it.
“As coaches that is what we are looking at. Do you have the game, the mental fortitude to improve and learn and push yourself forward when you have a bump in the road?”
The itinerary for the rest of the English summer does not offer much opportunity for the incumbents to groove their games on the county circuit, or for rivals to challenge for their berths ahead of the Trent Bridge Test on August 4, with two rounds of the Championship in early July giving way to the opening matches of the Hundred later that month.
As a consequence, Thorpe indicated that England would not be making wholesale changes against New Zealand, but warned that pressure for places was part and parcel of the job.
“These players have to show a desperation to stay in the side,” he said. “They’ve got to earn the right to stay in the side.
“And they will be fully aware of that, because we’ve got some players who will come back into that team and there are others on the outside putting pressure on so there is competition for places, which is a healthy thing for a team.
“That competition should drive the individual on so, when they get in, they smell that opportunity to perform and go and do it. Of course, that goes with the territory of playing at the highest level. You do have to keep producing. Your right-hand column is very important, it is what keeps you in the team.
“It is for us to keep observing the players to see whether they have the temperament to apply their techniques to score runs,” he added.
“Technique is hugely important and that is what keeps you scoring runs, but it is your decision-making that keeps you out in the middle whatever technique you have.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
England vs India women’s Test 2021 – Harmanpreet Kaur: ‘We may not have much practice, but mentally we’re prepared’ | Cricket
Harmanpreet Kaur believes that a lack of adequate game time in the longest format in the lead-up to India Women’s return to Test cricket after nearly seven years can be offset in some measure by cultivating a positive outlook and heeding advice received from Ajinkya Rahane.
“I’ve played only two red-ball matches [in international cricket]. As a batting group when we have a discussion… this time we got a chance to speak to Rahane as well,” Kaur, the India Test vice-captain, said of her “easy and friendly talk” with her male counterpart in Southampton, where both the Indian teams served a hard quarantine upon arriving in the UK on June 3. “He shared his knowledge with us as to how to approach batting in the longest format and how one should divide their innings into parts.
“We may not have much practice under our belt [going into the Test], but mentally [we are prepared]. We’ve discussed a lot of things so we prepare ourselves well for the match. Even in the nets, we’ve tried to be in a good frame of mind because when you are happy, other than thinking too much about your batting, you tend to play well.”
The women’s team arrived in Bristol on Monday for the one-off Test against hosts England that begins on Wednesday. The opening fixture of a seven-match multi-format assignment, the Test marks India’s first outing in the format since the one-off Test at home against South Africa in November 2014. On the domestic circuit, the last multi-day women’s competition – the Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Three-Day Game – was held in March-April 2018, in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kaur admitted that inadequate preparedness heading into the tour wasn’t ideal, but welcomed the revival of Test cricket for her team.
“Whatever time we’ve got [since coming out of quarantine], we’ve tried to simulate match scenarios as much as possible and tried to keep ourselves in the best frame of mind,” Kaur said. “We didn’t get much time to prepare, or any practice games. Individually, it’s imperative to adapt to the situation.
“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17″
Harmanpreet Kaur is all for letting Shafali Verma develop her own way
“The surfaces are different to what we get in India. We’ve practised against the swinging ball in the nets. We have a further two days – today and tomorrow – to prepare ourselves better for the match, so I hope we’ll be able to do that well.
“It’s a totally different scenario [to playing with the white ball]. I know we didn’t even get any domestic games with the red ball. In the upcoming season and years we’ll get more red-ball cricket also, which is a very good sign for us.”
As with Tests in the Women’s Ashes, the Bristol Test will feature the use of the Kookaburra red ball (the Dukes ball is usually used in England), with England captain Heather Knight saying last week that “we’re going to be using a Kookaburra in this match because that’s what we’re going to be using in the Ashes and it’s no secret this Test match is a huge part of our preparation going into that Ashes series and that Ashes Test match away from home.”
Kaur said that in the practice sessions India have had so far, the Kookaburra didn’t pose much challenge.
“Dealing with a Kookaburra didn’t feel too different because the ball size and weight is roughly the same [as the white ball we use in limited-overs cricket]. The last time we played [a Test], we felt the red ball was a bit heavier than the white variant, which makes you rely on your timing more. But the Kookaburra white and red ball feels the same; just the colour is different. We felt good playing with it because when you’re in whites and you play with the red ball, it’s a totally different feeling.”
When asked about the likelihood of 17-year-old big-hitter Shafali Verma making her debut on Wednesday, Kaur stressed that it was important for the senior players and the team management to refrain from talking shop too much with the young batter.
“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17 years old,” Kaur said. “To burden her with too many thoughts isn’t the right thing.
“All of us try to create a good environment for her to be able to feel less pressured and be able to enjoy her cricket well. She was looking great in the nets, and I hope if she gets a chance to play she’ll do better.”
As regards Jhulan Goswami, the senior-most bowler in the Indian attack, Kaur was hopeful that the 38-year-old pacer would replicate in this Test the consistency and success that’s been a hallmark of her nearly two-decade-long international career.
“She is someone who always takes the lead whenever we’re on the field,” Kaur said. “She’s always [been] special for us because her quota [of overs] is [important]. She will always give us breakthroughs whenever we need. Not only her but all the bowlers are very important because in Test matches you need breakthroughs, and I think she will be fantastic in this match also.”
The tour of England is also returning head coach Ramesh Powar‘s first assignment since replacing WV Raman in the role last month. Kaur, who is also India’s T20I captain, said her interactions with Powar on the ongoing tour had been no different to those during his first stint in the position which ended with the 2018 T20 World Cup, following a high-profile controversy involving himself, ODI captain Mithali Raj, Kaur, T20I vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, and several members of the now-defunct Committee of Administrators that was overseeing the BCCI.
“My interactions with him have been the same [as before]. He is someone who’s involved in the game all the time and expects the same of the players. Whenever you speak to him, you feel like you’re in a match. He asks you to imagine yourself in a match situation and figure out how you would react to it.
“I get a lot of information speaking to him because he, too, has played a lot of cricket, including T20 cricket. So the experience is the same. Whatever we had done in 2018, we are repeating those things now as well.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ind vs NZ – WTC winners to take home USD 1.6 million as well as Test Championship mace
Runners-up to get USD 800,000; the teams will split the prize money in case there isn’t a result
The winners of the India vs New Zealand World Test Championship (WTC) final will take home USD 1.6 million, as well as the Test Championship Mace, while the losing team will get USD 800,000, the ICC has announced. In case there is a stalemate, or weather prevents a winner from being identified despite the reserve day, the two teams will split the total prize money of USD 2.4 million.
Australia, who finished third on the points table, England, who were fourth, and Pakistan, the fifth-placed side, will receive USD 450,000, USD 350,000 and USD 200,000 respectively, while the remaining teams that were a part of the competition – West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – will get USD 100,000 each.
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