Kolkata: It will be no exaggeration to say that David Miller, nicknamed ‘Killer Miller’ once, had been on a voyage of rediscovering himself in IPL 2022. After mostly spending time in the dugout over the last couple of seasons, the seasoned South African batter has been revelling in the role of a finisher with his new franchise Gujarat Titans.
While a key factor behind the Titans’ extraordinary journey in their first season had been the team effort where almost everyone had put their hands up to play their bit, but the role of Miller and Rahul Tewatia had been extremely criticial in helping their team go over the line from improbable situations. Miller, whose aggregate of 347 runs in 13 matches so far may not exactly reveal the depth of his contribution, feels that a ‘bond’ with Tewatia had actually made his task easier.
Looking back at the way their campaign panned out so far, Miller shared with Gulf News in an exclusive interview about what made them tick. ‘‘Firstly, belief is extremely critical when you find yourself in such situations. Having played with Rahul earlier at Rajasthan Royals, we already had a bond and that has helped us during the current season.
‘‘We struck a good partnership in our tournament opener against Lucknow Super Giants and that has only carried on. While it is important to take it deep, you also try to stay with the asking rate. Finding the balance in those situations is the key,’’ the 33-year-old left hander said.
As the Titans brace to travel to Kolkata to play the first Qualifier after their last league game on Friday, it seems a far cry from the time when Titans were being treated as a lightweight side after the mega auction with the batting line-up looking thinner compared to their bowling. Miller, in fact, was one of the few experienced overseas batters in the line-up and the team management had entrusted him with a specific role which saw him excelling.
‘‘It has been great to contribute to the team’s success. The mood in the camp is very relaxed and positive, which has rubbed off on each and every player. I am happy that the Gujarat Titans placed faith in me and gave me the opportunity to produce results to the best of my abilities,’’ he said.
A look at Miller’s IPL record reveals that two of his best seasons had come in 2013 & 2014 for Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab), which included his lone century in the IPL. However, the innings of 94 which he played during a successful chase against Chennai Super Kings in mid-April would rate one of the best displays of controlled aggression in the recent history of IPL.
Asked if he would rate that matchwinning 94 as his best, Miller said: ‘‘My century against RCB in 2013 will always remain close to my heart. However, the recent knock against CSK is right up there. We were almost playing in their backyard – remember Pune has been their home a few seasons ago. We lost early wickets and the crowd was getting behind Chennai. Watching Rashid (Khan) smash it from the other end and later Lockie (Ferguson) diving full length to get us the winning runs summed up the team’s spirit.’’
As someone who has been there and done that in franchise cricket (Miller had been almost a regular in T10 League in the UAE), what does he think has been the biggest factor behind Titans’ consistency? ‘‘See, one of the biggest things that has worked for us is a relaxed atmosphere within the camp. On the field, we have managed to find ways to win and everyone has contributed in different stages of the competition. This only helps the team spirit,’’ he explained.
The evolution of Hardik Pandya as the captain had been also one of the major talking points and Miller broke it down in objectively: ‘‘I have gotten to know Hardik really well during this season and he is a very relaxed human being. As a captain, he has ensured that each member of the side feels good about themselves. A captain’s mindset often rubs off on the team and we can see that. He is competitive and proactive but relaxed at the same time. That combination has worked well for him.’’
Soon after the IPL which is on the home stretch, Miller will be back in action in India in the next month itself when India and South Africa lock horns in a five-match T20 series - high on relevance in view of the T20 World Cup coming up in Australia later this year.
Next big event
How important will it be from a personal angle as well as for the Proteas? ‘‘It is always great to compete against India in international cricket. We are building up to another T20 World Cup and such series are critical to know your game and align with the team. Last year, we won four out of our five matches at the T20 World Cup but were unfortunate not to get through to the semi-finals. It is now just about building up confidence and heading into the next big event.’’
A man of varied interests, Miller is known to be a good singer and had been a livewire in Titans’ jam sessions during their bubble life over the past two months. Asked how imporant a role music played in his down-time, and excited Miller said: ‘‘ Oh yes, is helped me a lot. I love my golf as well. Talking about hobbies, I must confess that wildlife photography is one of my favourite ones. I am hoping to explore some of India’s wildlife sanctuaries during the off-season.’’