David Miller © Gallo Images
When you play as effortlessly as David Miller in setting up the series-clinching four-wicket win for South Africa against New Zealand in the one-day Internationals (ODIs), and the 111-run victory for the VKB Knights against the Multiply Titans in a Momentum One Day Cup match, few observers would have thought the hard-hitting and successful South African middle-order batsman experienced some challenges along the way.
But the statistics underline that it was not always Miller time. He spent time on the substitute bench during his first five years and endured a torrid time occasionally, as he assembled 1 090 runs in 58 games at an average of 30.27, with seven half-centuries and no tons.
In his next 25 matches, the left-hander scored 1 130 runs and averaged 51.37. He hammered four centuries in that period of just more than two years.
Asked about his 104 off 100 for the Knights and his excellent average of 38.27 in 93 ODIs for South Africa, Miller said he changed his technique a few times since making his ODI debut for the Proteas against the West Indies in 2010.
“You have got to get your hands dirty and you have to improve,” said Miller about his career.
“If you don’t adjust your game to different conditions and adapt well (to meet the demands on different continents), you won’t have a long career in ODIs,” Miller said.
India might be low and slow, while Australia might offer some bounce to the fast bowlers. In New Zealand, the conditions will be slower again and in England, the ball might swing. Your ability to adjust can determine whether you have a long career in ODIs or not.
It has been advantageous to Miller’s career that he played in the Indian Premier League and even captained the Kings XI Punjab.
He once smashed 101 off 38 balls, thanks partially to his ability to clear the ball to different areas of the ground.
Miller is not only a batsman who can hammer it over cow corner for sixes. He can clear the point, cover, extra cover, long off, long on and square leg boundaries with ease.
“In the T20s there are so many variables and you have to work out many things, like at which part of the over you have to attempt your boundaries,” Miller said.
The exposure to high-pressure situations in the Indian Premier League has given Miller more confidence, comfort and peace in the longer formats. It has assured him that there is more time available than you might think.
Miller’s name has been synonymous with the phrase: “If its’ in the arc, it’s out the park,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is a batsman who swipes or slogs.
And Miller is quick to underline that he likes to play proper cricket shots. His greatest strengths are not the lap-shots, sweeps, reverse sweeps or Dil-scoop, although he practices those shots.
“I like to play proper cricket shots and then use the power to clear the grounds,” he added.
In the series-deciding match at Auckland, Miller blasted 45 out of 62 in a partnership with Faf du Plessis to set up victory.
That innings and the time difference between New Zealand and South Africa actually had an impact on Miller in Kimberley.
He said he felt a bit tired during the first 40 runs of the century. But thereafter, he accelerated and comfortably completed his ton to set up the emphatic bonus-point win.