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Cricket, SA vs. Zim: The Miller’s Tale

Cricket, SA vs. Zim: The Miller’s Tale

David Miller was one of South Africa’s standout batsmen in the second ODI against Zim on Tuesday. Although he has varied success in recent years, his star could finally be ignited if he continues from where he left off in Bulawayo. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

South Africa wrapped up a 61-run win over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on Tuesday, meaning they have the one-day series in the bag. It was a low-scoring affair, with just two South Africans passing the 40-run mark.

One of those players was David Miller, and were it not for a poor umpiring decision, he might have gone on to register a much higher score. It was an innings that has been a long time coming from a player who has shown so much promise. It had just the right amount of aggression, a fair bit of rotating the strike and it could not have come at a better time.

South Africa’s plan is all about building towards the World Cup and looking for a special player. Miller has long been tipped to be that “X-Factor” batsman that would obliterate the opposition when they least expect it. If he manages to click soon, they’ll be right on course.

But the road to here has not been easy for the 25-year-old. Since he first burst onto the scene, there has been much expectation on the shoulders of Miller. At domestic level – including the Indian Premier League – he has proven that he can be brutally destructive. He can be the kind of player that bowlers will draw straws to bowl to. But since first getting a shot at international cricket back in 2010, his international career has been somewhat up and down.

Having made his international bow in 2010, Miller never quite cracked it at international level. He played just a few games in the limited overs format and was dropped just before the 2011 World Cup in India. It was a blow for the talented youngster back then, but he did not give up. He went back to the drawing board and back to the domestic circuit to iron out the creases. Things pottered along at a steady pace, but it was not until 2012 that everything changed. He was packaged off to Yorkshire in England and it was here that he really excelled.

He played a pivotal role in helping Yorkshire lead the final in the T20 domestic competition for the first time in their history, hitting 50 in the quarter-final against Worcestershire and 47 against Sussex in the semi-final. While Yorkshire would ultimately lose the final by 10 runs to Hampshire, Miller hit an unbeaten 72 off 46, very nearly helping them secure victory.

The man himself credits this sting as one of the most significant moves of his career, despite the fact that he never really wanted to be there in the first place.

“Yorkshire was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career. I’d just come back from the IPL and it was a long two months and I didn’t get to play too much. All I wanted to was to get home; I wasn’t really in a good space,” Miller said in a magazine interview in 2013.

In Yorkshire, he worked closely with Jason Gillespie. The pair had got to know each other at Kings XI in the Indian Premier League, but Yorkshire gave them more one-on-one time. His technical game didn’t need much work. He’s not from the textbook school of beautiful cover drives. He plays a naturally aggressive game and it’s worked for him. The mental side of his game did need some tweaking and Gillespie, who has a Midas touch when it comes to moulding youth, stepped in immediately.

The first day he arrived at the county, Miller didn’t have any trainers, but he was so determined to practice that he padded up with his dress shoes and went for a net.

“We still have a laugh about it. Obviously he was trying to impress a bit coming to a new club, but that never relented; he’s always very diligent,” Gillespie recalls.

Gillespie himself earmarked the player to move to Yorkshire, which proved very successful in the end.

It was Gillespie’s backing which sealed the Yorkshire deal for Miller, a hallmark of the Australian’s belief to trust in youngsters, and it paid off both for the player and the club.

“I knew he was a lovely young man – he’s polite and respectful – but what stood out is how hard he hits the ball. When we were talking about overseas players I told the staff that they needed to trust me on picking David. He fitted in well and we allowed him to play his own game and he kept it simple,” Gillespie explains.

“He hits the ball so hard in the nets, he actually used to scare coaches a bit. He put a helmet on in the nets one day when I was throwing balls at him and he was hitting it so hard that I was actually fearful for my safety,” the coach adds.

That stint with Yorkshire and his performances there are what paved the way for Miller to return to the national team back in 2013. Since being recalled, he has scored 633 runs at an average of 33.31, including four of his six overall fifties. He also had time to hit that unbelievable hundred for Kings XI in the IPL, but something still seems missing at international level. There have been sparks of promise and clearly those sparks have been enough for his coaches and the selectors to persist with him.

After two decent innings against India last year, they would have had some of their faith repaid. A good showing against Zimbabwe, both in the final ODI and the tri-series to come, will show that the promise can finally be fulfilled.

Scorecard summary:

South Africa 257 (du Plessis 55, Utseya 2-39) beat Zimbabwe 196 (Williams 55, McLaren 3-21) by 61 runs. DM

Photo: South Africa’s captain AB de Villiers (C) celebrates with teammates Hashim Amla (R) and David Miller (L) after taking the catch to dismiss Sri Lanka’s Kusal Perera (not pictured) during their final One Day International cricket match in Hambantota July 12, 2014. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

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