In T20 cricket, David Miller has always played the difficult job of finisher with no bowling ability. It’s a job where you’re more likely to fail than succeed. You don’t get to use typical numbers to entice decision-makers. When you go to play in leagues outside of your home nation, getting one of the few foreign slots is challenging.
Miller has seen it throughout his career, maybe most recently at his former franchise, which he ironically helped beat in the first Qualifier with a crisp and dazzling innings.
“[Did it frustrate you?] Yes, without a doubt “Miller explained. “Rajasthan has had their abroad players, and they’ve been quite strict about only sending four players overseas. Not being able to play for the past couple of years has been really frustrating. I believe it’s something I’ve learned over time, where I can work in the off-season and have a constructive attitude about not playing rather than pouting. It’s just a matter of trying to keep a nice attitude around the group. In terms of the Gujarat Titans, I’m very enthusiastic about the new team. It’s a new beginning, therefore I’m hoping to stake my claim.”
This was far from having a go at Royals. It was indeed difficult to nail down a place there with three spots claimed by Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes. Miller has come a long way from the hitter that first emerged in that manic Kings XI Punjab season with catchphrases about hitting it out of the park if it was in his arc. With time, the ruthless T20 sides stopped giving anything in his arc. To still go on and have his best season in the IPL eight years later is a remarkable achievement, and to Miller it is all down to the backing he has received.
“I think opportunity firstly,” Miller told Star Sports when asked what has changed. “I have been given a good role and a good extensive run in the team. I felt extremely backed from the onset. My personal game, I am really enjoying my role. I have been playing for many years now, and I think I am just understanding my game a lot better. I think in high-pressure situations you tend to sort of go away from your game plan but I feel like I am trying to keep everything together as close as possible to my game plan.”
You might even argue they backed him more than Miller did himself. Go back to the Punjab Kings game where he tried to hand over the strike to the set batter, the captain Hardik Pandya, which resulted in Pandya’s run-out. That was a rare moment when Pandya made a show of emotion. To Pandya and the team management, Miller has been a match-winner from the time they went to the auction table. They seem to have identified him as someone who needs to be shown some love.
At the post-match press conference, Pandya remarked, “I am truly proud of the way he has lifted his game.” “He is actually a nice guy.” So I was proud to play with him and enjoy myself. He is really a beautiful person. I’ve always wished for the best for him. And it sort of demonstrates how, if you offer love and attention to a single player, he may develop.
“Many people wrote David Miller off, but we saw him as a match-winner from the moment we got him at auction. We had expected him to do what he did today. But it was crucial for us to emphasize his importance, show him our affection, and make it clear what we expect of him. It’s okay if he fails; it’s just a game.”
It certainly didn’t look like just a game when Pandya was run out against Kings, but that day Rahul Tewatia came to their rescue with two sixes off the last two balls to win the match, a real turning point in their journey of enjoying being a team.
When asked if he was nervous walking into the side, Miller replied, “The joys of the IPL.” “You play for several teams. You can now meet different players in franchise cricket around the world. I knew quite a few of the players beforehand, but it was a new squad, so there are a few jitters here and there as the guys get to know one another. But, after that first win, which was a tight call, I believe everything fell into place and we were accustomed to it.”