IPL 2022: David's Goliath hand in Gujarat's journey to the top

The South African batter has been a game-changer for Titans this season and will be keen to finish on a high

Published: 28th May 2022 11:06 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th May 2022 11:06 PM   |  A+A-

Gujarat Titans batter David Miller

Gujarat Titans batter David Miller (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: When the curtains came down on the auction, one team got a lot of curious glances. Surely, that isn't the best use of money? Where are the match-winners? Their batting lacks the requisite muscle. Is their captain even fit? This could be a long, hard season. Those were the exact reactions when Rajasthan Royals played their first match in 2008.

Those were also some of the thoughts doing the rounds when Gujarat Titans made their Indian Premier League debut less than two months ago. History will surely repeat itself if the Titans can script their own underdog story to match the one penned by Royals 14 summers ago.

Among all the unlikely match-winners that Gujarat acquired, David Miller was the one that stood out. At 32, he was almost a veteran. He has played over 225 games for South Africa and, coming into the auction, had completed a decade in the IPL. During that time, the South African had felt all possible emotions from love to being unwanted. What's more, 'Killer Miller' was used to mock him. In the five years from 2017, he played 28 games, scored 494 runs at a strike rate of just over 117 while averaging 17.6. Unsexy. It wasn't really a surprise when he went unsold on the first day of the two-day auctions earlier this year.  On day two, Titans needed an overseas batter.

As Titans had spent lots of money on the bowlers, Miller would be an automatic choice in a slightly undercooked top-order. Out of the Rs 52 cr they had at the auction, they went big on a new-ball specialist (Mohammed Shami for Rs 6.25 cr), an enforcer (Lockie Ferguson Rs10 cr) and an all-rounder (Rahul Tewatia Rs 9 cr). Even if the spine was set, they needed Miller, who was picked up for Rs 3 cr, to be that all important finisher. That in itself was a game-changer. In his recent previous IPL assignments, there were substitutes for him. So a couple of failures meant he could potentially become the water-carrier.

This year? He would not only be the main overseas finisher, he would be the only overseas player in the top six filling out one primary role — batting — and no secondary role. The job security was instant.  
"It was important to give him the importance, give him that love and give him the clarity as to what we expect from him," Hardik Pandya had said of Miller after Qualifier 1 after he had deposited Prasidh Krishna for three sixes in the 20th over to help them win. "A lot of people counted David Miller out but for us he was always a match-winner... And it kind of shows if you show love and importance to an individual player, he can flourish and how."

Miller himself has felt that warmth of being wanted. "I have been backed all the way. Playing all the games allows a player to settle down and really not worry about selection. I am loving being part of this successful team,” he said in an interaction before the final.

To Miller's credit, he has added spin hitting to his resume. It shows in the numbers. He averages almost a 100 while striking at 144 against them. Save for Jos Buttler, no cricketer has these numbers in 2022. His consistency — his average of 64.14 is the best this season — shows two things. He remains not out (eight from 15) and he almost always makes a contribution (yet to be dismissed for single figures this year).

The southpaw first burst into Indian households after his unbeaten 101 for Kings XI Punjab in 2013. Post that match, he said that now iconic line, 'if it's in the V, it's in the tree and if it's in the arc, it's out of the park' when asked his batting mantra (it was something his father, Andrew, instilled in him). Almost a decade and some doubts later, the South African has re-calibrated that mantra.
It's always out of the park irrespective of whether it's in the arc or not.    



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