David Miller’s IPL future hangs in the balance and it could have negative consequences for the Proteas, writes RYAN VREDE.
I first interviewed David Miller just after his selection for the West Indies tour of 2010. He’d been ripping up the domestic scene and was the talk of South African cricket, particularly because of his ability to hit a long ball.
I liked his philosophy of backing himself to clear the ropes regularly, but this belied a refined touch game. The two combined to create a potentially invaluable Proteas short-form cricketer. His brilliance in the field further amplified his value.
He announced his arrival to the international game with a valuable 33 runs off 26 balls on a slow North Sound deck. He then stood unbeaten 23 off just 16 balls in the first ODI at the same venue. Two days later he was unbeaten once more, his 26 off 19 balls helping the Proteas to a massive team total of 300.
Since then he has built a notable international career in 50-over and T20 cricket, averaging 40 and 30, respectively, in those formats. He is among the certain starters in short-form cricket for the Proteas. Yet, at IPL level he is sliding into the wilderness.
His hitting power and skill made him a priority for the Kings XI Punjab recruiters in 2012. A 2013 IPL campaign, during which he scored 418 runs at an average touching 60 and a strike rate of 165, set him apart as one of the tournament’s most valuable players.
Miller backed that up with a strong showing in 2014 and 2015, but since then his form has been inconsistent, prompting KXIP to release him in 2019. It would have shook Miller, who is an established international and had become a mainstay at KXIP in the IPL.
The Rajasthan Royals snapped him up for the 2020 tournament. He got a duck in his first innings as a Royal and hasn’t played since. There are others deemed to be better middle-order finishers – Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa and Riyan Paraj among them.
Ben Stokes’ arrival complicates matters further for Miller. The Englishman offers the Royals a bowling option, while his countryman Jos Butler and Australian Steve Smith are among the game’s most devastating batters. Jofra Archer rounds out the quartet of foreigners permitted in a starting 11, leaving Miller resigned to a bench role.
What now? He finds himself in the position of being released by a franchise (KXIP) and being on the outside at his new home. Things change quickly in IPL cricket, and Miller may get an opportunity in a restructured 11, but as it stands, it’s hard to see a way back into the fold for Miller. It’s in the Proteas interest that Miller plays as much T20 cricket as possible, particular in tournament’s populated by the world’s best bowlers and on challenging wickets.
Miller’s IPL record stands up well against some of the tournament’s most notable middle-order finishers (see sidebar) but pales in comparison to one of the game’s best, MS Dhoni.
The difference for Miller is that – outside Eoin Morgan – the list is populated by all-rounders or a specialist wicketkeeper in Dhoni. These men offer their franchises added value because of their wide-ranging skill sets. They’re harder to drop because of this, whereas Miller relies solely on his contribution with the bat to retain his place.
This was always going to be a defining IPL season for the 31-year-old. He needed to re-establish himself at a new franchise after a couple of years of being in and out of the KIXP side.
In the buildup to the tournament, ESPNcricinfo.com’s Sruthi Ravindranath asked Miller whether his best was yet to come. ‘Definitely,’ he declared. ‘I feel I’m very experienced, very well put together in my mind and a lot calmer. I’m still learning; everyone learns along the way. I’m certainly very excited about the latter part of my career and really looking forward to putting on some big performances. I’ve certainly got a lot to offer.’
For his assertion to be tested, his experience and technical skill need a platform for expression.
MILLER vs THE FINISHERS
David Miller – 80 matches, 1,850 runs, 33.63 ave, 138.78 sr
Eoin Morgan – 58 matches, 1,021 runs, 23.20 ave, 123.30 sr
Kieron Pollard – 155 matches, 2,929 runs, 30.19 ave, 148.75 sr
Glenn Maxwell – 76 matches, 1,455 runs, 22.38 ave, 156.78 sr
MS Dhoni – 197 matches, 4,544 runs, 42.07 ave, 137.69 sr