Miller Finds His Mojo With Gujarat Titans

Back in 2010, in an ODI at North Sound Ground in Antigua, Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies all-rounder, seemed to be playing a game of cat and mouse against David Miller, the new entrant in the South African side. For a while, Bravo succeeded too, as he mixed up his lines and lengths to keep Miller, a left-hand batter, guessing about his variations. Unfortunately for Bravo, the final ball of the over was in the slot and Miller tonked it down the ground. At that time, very few would have imagined that this particular lofted shot would turn out to be Miller’s signature stroke in the years to come.

A few years later, when Miller helped Kings XI Punjab, as the franchise was known then, script a memorable win against Royal Challengers Bangalore with a scintillating 38-ball ton, he had elaborated on his key strength – that down-the-ground loft. “If it’s in the V, it’s in the tree; if it’s in the arc, it’s out of the park.” Miller’s simple mantra and clarity of thought have served him well in franchise leagues, especially in the IPL, where he has come through some poor patches, before becoming one of the mainstays of Gujarat Titans’ batting unit.

Batting at No.4 or 5 can be tricky, as it demands that a batter adapt to different situations. It could be about scoring at 10, 12 or 15 runs an over to steering the side home in a chase. It could also be related to building on the platform set by the top-order. On occasions, the side might have lost a slew of wickets upfront. In such a scenario, it would be about consolidating the innings before supercharging the batting engine. Simply put, in the fast-paced T20 format, it is difficult for a middle-order bat to constantly tweak his or her game, and play according to the situation.

In the last couple of  seasons for Gujarat, Miller has been able to meet most of the demands of playing in the middle-order. He aggregated almost 500 runs in IPL 2022, at an excellent average of 68.71 and strike-rate of over 140. This season, he has compiled 201 runs at an average of 50.25 and strike-rate of 150. He may never win the Orange Cap, but his role in a T20 team is to play those impactful knocks.

The three sixes he tonked off Rajasthan Royals’ Prasidh Krishna in Qualifier 1 last year reaffirmed Miller’s versatility, and also how he goes about outmanoeuvring the bowler. By now, it is a known fact that if the ball is in Miller’s arc, it would likely end up in the stands. So Prasidh tried to bowl outside off stump. Miller, though, had anticipated Rajasthan’s strategy. With a small trigger movement, he shuffled across to crunch a six over long-on. Prasidh didn’t help his cause as the delivery was, to an extent, still in Miller’s hitting zone.

Prasidh then tried to hit a hard length, but all he could do was helplessly watch the ball sail over the midwicket fence. By then, he had more or less lost the mental battle, and ended up bowling a slower ball more in hope than conviction. Not surprisingly, Miller collected his third consecutive six to guide his side to the summit clash.

After the game, Miller had said: “In high-pressure situations, you tend to go away from the game plan, but I’m trying to keep everything together as close as possible to my game plan. There’s been a lot of critics saying, ‘go wide to me on the off-side’. I stepped across, and there were four fielders on the off-side. I knew there was a certain plan, but I tried to get across outside the off-stump and he bowled pretty straight. I backed myself and went with it, but the rest, I just tried to hit it as hard as possible.”

This season, too, his crucial contributions have made a difference for Gujarat. Scores of 31*, 46, 46, 32* and 21* – timely knocks, where he has had to wear different hats, as per the situation of the game. One suspects, at the business end of the tournament, that the Gujarat camp would once again pin their hopes on the man from Pietermaritzburg. He will wear one from his big collection of hats, and guide the team past tricky hurdles.

Also Read: Gujarat Openers and Mohit Seal Thumping Win Over Lucknow

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