He was one of New Zealand’s most successful batsmen, at least by average, and he made 16 fifties, but centuries often eluded him and he had to wait nine years to make his first – by that time, he had turned 31. He only lost one Test series as captain, against Pakistan away, and he became a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1984.
Coney was the captain who in 1986, after the England wicketkeeper Bruce French was injured by a Hadlee bouncer, allowed Bob Taylor to leave the sponsor’s tent and play as a substitute. New Zealand won that series with the bowling of Richard Hadlee only slightly more potent than the captaincy of Coney. His medium-pace bowling was often used in ODIs, where it yielded 54 wickets, including four for 46 against Sri Lanka in 1985.
During his playing days, Coney’s height, reach, and reactions as a slip fieldsman, earned him the nickname “The Mantis”. He wrote Playing Mantis: An Autobiography in 1986. Along with John Parker and Bryan Waddle, he wrote The Wonderful Days of Summer in 1993.
In 2001 he made a television documentary series, The Mantis and the Cricket, which looked back on New Zealand’s cricket history, using interviews with former players and historical footage. The first part follows the 1937 New Zealand Cricket team which toured England with interviews of Walter Hadlee, Merv Wallace, Jack Kerr and Lindsay Weir.
He now lives in south Oxfordshire and works as a commentator/summariser for Sky TV and Test Match Special, where he is noted for his regular use of the word “parsimonious”. Coney is trained as a stage lighting designer; in 2008 he lit I Found My Horn, a solo play which has enjoyed runs at the Tristan Bates and the Hampstead theatres.