Different countries, different experiences. It has been quite a journey for you.
It’s good enough, isn’t it? I was born and raised in Cape Town, but qualified to play for the Netherlands thanks to my maternal grandfather, who moved there in the late 1970s. And then in 2017 I left South Africa to move to New Zealand on a short-term contract as a substitute player. I seriously didn’t know that this was where I would make a living and play for the Black Caps, perhaps, one day.
How did you start bowling left arm wrist spin?
I started out as a left-arm fast bowler, but I watched Shane Warne and Brad Hogg grow up. It was Jonathan Trott’s father, Ian, who was the first to tell me that I could try my hand at left-arm spin. I started with a left-arm orthodox, but I felt like bowling left-arm wrist spin, and variations came naturally to me, so in representative cricket in the under-15s, I switched.
How does one progress as a spinner in New Zealand?
You should make peace with the fact that you won’t always take bucketloads of wickets. You should learn to play the holding role, put pressure on the batsmen. That’s where I think my varices and left hand wrist come into the picture. There’s a novelty factor in the beginning, and just the art is such that there’s always a little bit of intrigue in it. If you can get it right, you can function in a wide variety of situations.
I love the desire to learn and improve myself in challenging situations. I want to count this opportunity and take it step by step.
How did you qualify to play for Netherlands?
Because I had a European passport, I was able to travel to the United Kingdom for a county stint with the Sussexes. That’s when the word spread that I might qualify to play for Holland as well. He asked me if I wanted to play for him, and I thought it was a good opportunity. From 2013 to 2016, I was part of the team’s journey through the World Cricket League Division Two. Since we were dropped from there, we were trying to qualify for WCL Division One.
Earlier this year, you were selected by the Netherlands after more than three years.
Since Covid hit and I could not find my New Zealand residence, I could not leave the country [New Zealand], so that thwarted my ambition of playing for Netherlands in last year’s T20 World Cup. Plus, it clashed with our home schedule here. When the Netherlands announced the historic tour of New Zealand, it all came as a surprise. I was in a lucky position. I made it clear to the Netherlands my ambition to play for New Zealand. They were understanding it. Playing for him was a great opportunity to play at the international level.
At the end of that cycle, Anton Roux, a former Dutch international who had been our coach, was taking the role of assistant coach with the Otago Volts. That’s when my relationship with New Zealand began.
I went on for just a month initially as cover for one of Otago’s local players. I had to play and had some good games. Because I enjoyed my time there, I saw the possibility of staying longer.
You inspired others to come to New Zealand too.
,Laugh) Yes, it was then that I got a call from Devon, who asked me what life was like in the country. I spoke candidly about it, and that’s when he also decided to come here. I thought he would come to Otago, but he moved to Wellington.
Associate cricket is cutthroat. In 2014 we dropped out of the top six, so we lost ODI position and funding. I remember sitting in the team hotel after losing to Kenya and wondering what we would do next. We had to find a job. Some boys were thinking about studies. We didn’t know where our future lay. But then, we set ourselves a goal to be the best partner and we went through a three-year cycle trying to achieve it. Of course, after the 2019 World Cup, the Super League came into existence, which allowed us to play top teams to qualify for the 2023 World Cup. but that’s Won’t go ahead after 2023 World CupSo once again a lot of players will be left wondering what will happen next.
Was cricket your first sport?
I was too young to play rugby, so cricket and tennis were my summer sports and hockey my winter sports. When I was 15 years old, Trott’s father saw the potential in me and inspired me to play cricket. I quit hockey then and played cricket for a year. When I was 19 years old, I was selected by Cape Cobras for my first full year of professional cricket.
Conway came to New Zealand after you but qualified much earlier. how did that happen?
The visa I was on initially only allowed me to work in New Zealand. It was only in 2019 that I was able to switch to a talent visa, which, if you are there for three years, you are eligible to apply for residency. This March, my residency was approved, so New Zealand is now my home. I bought a house earlier this year. I have seen my career grow by leaps and bounds. The system is great, the people are wonderful, the culture is great. In terms of my career and my future, it is firmly established here.
Shashank Kishor is the Senior Sub-Editor at ESPNcricinfo
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