That David Miller can destroy bowling attacks all around the world is a solid fact. That David Miller hasn’t had quite the success he would have hoped for in the past few IPL seasons is also a fact, but one that needs more nuance. That David Miller has looked like playing the kind of innings he did against Chennai Super Kings – 94 runs bludgeoned in 51 balls – is an opinion, but it’s one that would have held possibly more weight than the facts even.
In terms of odds, every one that could be, was stacked against Miller. Gujarat Titans missing their talismanic regular captain Hardik Pandya? Check. Top order collapse? Check, to the tune of 16 for 3 in the fourth over, and 48 for 4 in eight overs, and 87 for 5 in the 13th over. A climbing required rate, quality spinners on a pitch that’s gripping, and Miller – who has had much more success against pace than spin – the only frontline batter standing? Triple check.
Through all that, remarkably, Miller didn’t just stay at the crease, he was fluent while being attacking. Against spin. Against well-pedigreed spin. Against well-pedigreed spin on a pitch that offered some grip. Whew.
The making of this Miller innings might be as interesting as his innings itself, although perhaps not quite as thrilling as watching him smoke balls down the ground. In IPL 2022 in particular, Miller has not gotten out before getting into double digits at least. Only once has he been dismissed for less than 20, and his strike rate has been above 140 in four out of six innings. Pretty darn good for anyone. Fairly remarkable for someone who was averaging 22.6 at a strike rate of less than 120 in the IPL from 2016 to 2021.
Why the dip from 2016 to 2021? And how did the resurgence in 2022 come about? For starters, due to team dynamics, Miller spent more time on the bench in those six years than in the playing XI. Coming into the Titans’ set up, he was given the assurance that he would be a regular starter, and more importantly, the backing that showed the team believed in him.
“The last two, three, four years, I’ve been playing really, really nice cricket. I’ve been feeling positive and I’ve been scoring really nicely – back at home, overseas and so on,” Miller said after the game. “Unfortunately, the last four to five years I haven’t really played as much IPL cricket as I would have liked to. The nature of the tournament is that there’s only four overseas (players in the XI), and you know, overseas players are always going to miss out. And I’ve sort of found myself in between a place where I’ve been in and out, in and out – of Kings XI and then Rajasthan. I played some decent games there but I just felt like I couldn’t really get going.
“It's been really, really encouraging to be a part of the Gujarat Titans and just know that I’m 100% backed. We’ve had a really nice environment, really enjoyed each others’ success. I think that goes a long way to doing well. But more importantly, been really nice to actually play every game.”
That belief from the Titans has translated into fluency at the crease for Miller. Against Rajasthan Royals in the last match, Hardik was the colossal star of the game, but Miller’s 31 off 14 balls at the death gave plenty of indication that his groove this IPL season was better than ever.
The innings against Chennai Super Kings sealed it, not least in how he dealt with a three-pronged spin attack. It’s a remarkable thing about belief, from within and from the team. The feet move more decisively, the mind makes sharper decisions. Miller came authoritatively forward, and targeted the straight boundaries with pristinely clean connection. He knew the spinners would be unleashed on him. He calculated – correctly – that if he could counter-attack, it would severely limit the opposition’s plans.
“They have three spinners, so I felt like if they bowled well, they were definitely going to bowl all their overs towards me,” Miller said. “The fact that we took them on early, they obviously were forced to bowl the pace bowlers. That was pretty much the plan. Anything sort of fullish, I was pretty much just committing to hitting down the ground, and then just trying to really impose my presence and know that I’m there to score. We had to play our game, and not just rotate all the time.”
It's one thing to have the belief in yourself. It’s even better when your team has faith in you. Miller got even the opposition, in the form of coach Stephen Fleming, to doff their hats to him.
“It was a quality knock. Our spinners were probing, we were going well at that stage. He kept them in the game by some good hitting, took some good options down the ground,” Fleming said. “We weren’t able to play on any weakness there. It’s the thing with weaknesses with players: they’re very aware of them, and they go away and work on them to make them better. Quality players often make a few changes and come back better for it. And the way David played tonight, you would say that would be the case.”
Killer Miller, against opposition plans. Thriller Miller, when conjuring a win out of nothing. Winner Miller - being the man for the hour for the Titans.