Aggression is his motto

Young South African David Miller has caught the eye of the fans in IPL with some spectacular knocks

Aggression is his motto

David Miller is arguably the find of Indian Premier League this season. At 23, he has taken power-hitting to a different level, conjuring a form of batsmanship that is a throwback to vintage times.

Those who saw him bat against Royal Challengers Bangalore will find his knock lingering in their memories for days to come. It was stunning, destructive, and constructed on the sound foundation of self belief; a truly well-paced innings in the shortest format of the game.

The South African had been part of Kings XI Punjab since 2011 after being bought for $100,000 but was largely restricted to the bench. It was only this year that he gained places up the ranks with some fine knocks before exploding to produce a 38-ball 101 for the third fastest IPL century.

For someone who made his first-class debut at 17, it has been far from a smooth journey. Always acknowledged for his talent, he found consistency elusive and big innings from him took time to come. He was among the probables for the 2011 World Cup in the sub-continent but failed to make the cut after a string of early dismissals. It dented his confidence but rock solid support from his family helped him to recover. That he came from a sporting family helped, too.

From a young age Miller was encouraged to delve into a range of sports by his father, Andrew. So he played hockey, rugby, tennis, squash and golf before finding his calling in cricket. “I enjoyed most of these sports but I must have been 15-16 when I felt convinced that it was cricket that I really wanted to play,” Miller said.

He went to Maritzburg College, the alma mater of Kevin Pietersen, Jonty Rhodes and Graham Ford, who also coached him. He was to quickly gain the reputation of a fearsome hitter in limited overs cricket and even though his first two years with Kings XI didn’t give him much opportunity, their 2011 bowling coach, Jason Gillespie, saw the potential in him and recommended him to Yorkshire, where he “benefited immensely” last year.

The influence of the shorter format, however didn’t mess up his playing style. His ability to play straight stuck with him and it got noticed even during his Twenty20 blitzkriegs.

He made it even popular by rattling off his father’s advice during a television interview last week:  "If it's in the V, it's in the tree; and if it's in the arc, it's out of the park.” A statement that signified his cricket perfectly!

Miller has indeed taken the advice to heart. So much so that he is conscious he does not turn into a slogger. “Playing with the full face of the bat is my strength, it gives me a better chance of hitting every ball. That is how I like to play my cricket. You see the ball, you hit the ball. But I don’t want to be a slogger,” he said.

The cricketer from Pietermaritzburg has good things to say about IPL and finds it better than most domestic tournaments. “The quality of cricket is quite good, there is great competition with the best of Indian and international cricketers around. I have really enjoyed myself. My century was probably the best knock I have played and I am proud of it. It has given me a lot of confidence which has added to the whole experience.”

Miller, however, insists his approach is not all about slam-bang cricket and that he will like to finish his career as a Test cricketer.

“Even though I enjoy playing Twenty20 cricket, I really want to play Test cricket. It is the longer format where I will like to prove myself. It is hard to explain what it is that makes Test cricket so special but as a cricketer you are judged on how you perform in the longer format.  It inspires me and I will like to say that I played Test cricket when I finish,” he said.

The left-handed middle order batsman is on the right track. He already has a clutch of Twenty20 and ODIs under his belt but his first real test will be the Champions Trophy in England from June 6-23. With South Africa’s batting line-up — despite the absence of Graeme Smith due to injury — boasting a host of international stars, it will be a challenge for the young man to carve a place of his own.  “It is a privilege for me to be selected in the squad for the Champions Trophy. I will take it as it comes. We have some great cricketers in our line-up. But if I get selected in the final XI, I will do my best to make the most of the opportunity,” he signed off.

South African cricket, hopefully, will be enriched by the awesome potential this gifted cricketer brings to the crease.

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