TELFORD VICE, Franschhoek
DAVID Miller isn’t having the best time. First he sat on the bench for all five one-day internationals England played in SA last season. Then he was sacked as Punjab Kings XI captain after his team lost five of their first six games.
On top of that, he has gone 17 completed innings at any level and in any format without reaching 50. In 10 of those trips to the crease he has been dismissed for fewer than 30.
Which makes it difficult to argue Miller’s case in the wake of him being left out of SA’s squad for a one-day tournament in the Caribbean next month.
Not that Miller himself will be in the mood for an argument, having spent much of the past month losing 5kg and rising from hospital beds around India to play for Punjab.
His father, Andrew, who is also in India, sprang to his son’s defence when social media critics took aim at the left-hander’s performances.
“(It’s) a virus which has been difficult to contain,” Miller senior wrote. “Severe fevers, (painful) joints and a lack of strength, among other symptoms.”
Add that to the reasons Miller will have to be less than cheerful.
“I don’t think he’s ever felt he’s had a secure spot in the side,” Mike Bechet, Miller’s coach at Maritzburg College, said. “It’s important, when you go out to bat, that you’re not looking over your shoulder thinking, ‘Is this my last innings?’.”
The last time South Africans saw Miller play to his potential was on March 4, when he hammered most of the 35 balls Australia’s attack bowled to him to all parts of Kingsmead to score an unbeaten 53 and win the first T20.
But that was an island of excellence in a sea sloshing with mediocrity for a player who, not long ago, seemed able to walk on water – at least in the Neverlands of the Indian Premier League and franchise one-day and T20 cricket.
And therein lies the problem. “He’s been labelled as a guy who can hit the ball out of the park and sometimes that can affect your basics,” Imraan Khan, Miller’s Dolphins teammate until the latter announced his move to the Knights for next season, said.
“Maybe all he needs is to play some four-day cricket and get some runs under his belt. But he doesn’t play a lot of four-day cricket.
“The best practice is in the middle and T20 is such a hustle and bustle that you don’t get much chance to practice.”
Miller played 22 first-class games in the two seasons that spanned his first-class and SA debuts. Since then, over the course of six summers, he has had just 29 matches in whites.
You can maintain an IPL career like that, but nothing more. Knights, are you reading this?