IPL 2022: Miller resurrection fuelling Titans' charge

Miller found a new home in Rajasthan Royals in 2020 but every moment of that stay was harrowing
Last Updated 25 May 2022, 15:56 IST

When Gujarat Titans picked David Miller for Rs 3 crore during the IPL mega auction in February, one felt they may have committed a rookie mistake. Titans were seated at the auction table for the first time and the general feeling was the franchise bid for the South African game-changer purely on past reputation but not on form.

Yes, the 32-year-old can single-handedly win games that appear lost but those few electrifying knocks came far between. Since the 2016 season, Miller’s numbers had been dipping alarmingly which forced Punjab Kings to let go of him in 2020 following an eventful eight-year spell.

Miller found a new home in Rajasthan Royals in 2020 but every moment of that stay was harrowing. With Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes being automatic picks, Miller struggled to find the fourth foreigner slot and ended up merely as a high-value addition to the dug-out, managing just one game all season.

That frustration of being ignored — largely due to selection dynamics than anything else — despite being one of the most dangerous hitters in world cricket had a severe impact on his performance in 2021. He got to play 9 games but burdened with pressures of past failures, disappointments and dejection, Miller simply crumbled. He managed a mere 124 runs at a poor strike rate of 109.73, far below his career T20I strike rate of 140.62 (95 games) and 138.43 in 376 T20 games.

Miller then went unsold on Day 1 of the auctions and it looked like he may join a list of marquee players to miss out on the richest T20 league in the world, a tournament where he made a name for himself with Punjab Kings. But to Miller’s relief his name came up for bidding on the second day and following a mini tussle with Royals, Titans acquired him for Rs 3 crore.

Following six consecutive seasons of failure, Miller knew this was going to be his last chance. Specialised finishers are no longer exclusive property and with batting all-rounders being the sought-after assets now, Miller, just a pure batter, had to bring his A game. And he has done that in remarkable fashion, emerging as the second highest scorer for Titans with 449 runs in 15 games at a brilliant average of 64.15 and a smashing strike rate of 141.19. Remarkably, Miller is winning tense affairs, like he did in the 38-ball 68 not out against Royals in Qualifier 1 at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.

The primary reason behind Miller’s resurrection is the confidence and belief the current management has given him. They knew they were taking a massive risk in buying him but they were also aware a wounded animal is always dangerous and they’ve just unleashed the beast and given it the licence to kill. Miller, hungry for a prey, has gone wild.

"I have been given a good role and a good extensive run in the team,” Miller said after winning the man of the match award on Tuesday. “I felt extremely backed from the onset. My personal game, I am really enjoying my role. I have been playing for many years now, and I think I am just understanding my game a lot better. I think in high-pressure situations you tend to sort of go away from your game plan but I feel like I am trying to keep everything together as close as possible to my game plan.”

Skipper Hardik Pandya, who has made a statement of his own with his easy-going leadership style, said the management were confident from the start of a Miller turnaround. “A lot of people counted David Miller out but for us he was always a match-winner from the time we bought him at the auction. What he did today we always expected from him. But for us it was important to give him the importance, give him that love and give him the clarity as to what we expect from him. And if he fails, it's okay... it's just a game.”

Miller will be now be looking to compete his resurrection on a triumphant note in the final on Sunday.

(Published 25 May 2022, 14:31 IST)

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