Miller chuffed for the biggest match of his career

DAVID Miller is the most capped South African player in the T20 format. | AFP

DAVID Miller is the most capped South African player in the T20 format. | AFP

Published Jun 28, 2024


SUSHI, caviare, jerk chicken and drinks on tap was what greeted David Miller upon checking in at the Proteas’ all-inclusive resort in Antigua.

It was all a bit much to digest for a fresh-faced 21-year-old that had just endured a two-month stint with the National Academy and South Africa A side in Bangladesh.

“Is this what international cricket is all about? I’ve been living off Marmite for two months,” Miller told this reporter back in 2010.

Miller made his international debut in both white-ball formats at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on that tour of the West Indies.

Fourteen years later Miller is the most capped Proteas T20 international, and the second-highest run-scorer behind Quinton de Kock.

Miller’s career has come full circle as he is now back in the Caribbean and on the brink of playing in the biggest match of his career tomorrow: the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final.

For a player that has endured the majority of the Proteas’ previous semi-final heartbreaks – in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy (The Oval, London), 2014 T20 World Cup 2014 (Dhaka), 2015 ODI World Cup (Eden Park, Auckland) and most notably last year’s ODI World Cup semi at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, when he struck a magnificent century under pressure against Australia – the relief of shattering the glass ceiling yesterday morning (SA time) must be immense.

“I got a bit emotional last night, but there is still a bit of unfinished business in a couple of days’ time. Obviously feels very special,” Miller said.

“There has been a lot of heartache in South African cricket for many years with the semi-finals. It’s been a tough time. Plenty of semi-finals with incredible Proteas teams.

“Getting over that line in the way we did made it just a bit more special. Chuffed to be part of the unit that has an opportunity to win a World Cup. It’s really special. Definitely feels like a yolk has been taken off our backs, shoulders, necks … call it what you will.”

Miller was not required to walk to the crease during the nine-wicket demolition of Afghanistan in the Trinidad semi-final, but he has played some crucial innings during the Proteas’ eight-game winning streak leading into this T20 World Cup final.

The undefeated 59 in New York against the Netherlands was a match-winner, while the 43 against England in St Lucia was equally priceless. Both innings were constructed under pressure and showed Miller’s maturity since those early days in Antigua when he was basically just a slugger.

Miller certainly feels he has learnt valuable lessons over the duration of his career that will prove invaluable in tomorrow’s showpiece.

“I never expected myself to play this long. Looking back at those days I’ve learnt a lot, gained plenty of experience and played with some amazing players,” he said.

“You mature as you get older, making better decisions under pressure is something I’ve tried to (do). Within games there are turning points, and I’ve tried to recognise those moments.

“But you also learn together as a team. Growing together, maturing together through failure and success makes a big difference, especially in World Cups.”

The T20 World Cup final will undoubtedly be the biggest contest of Miller and the rest of the Proteas’ careers.

The spotlight has never been greater on the team as a collective and the individuals.

But Miller, who has played in the Indian Premier League final for the Gujarat Titans in the 135 000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium previously, feels that he and the rest of his Proteas teammates have gathered enough experience of such immense occasions not to be caught like a deer in the headlights tomorrow.

“We are very fortunate to play in the IPL before so many fans and supporters and I think as unit a lot of the guys have played in those conditions under pressure before so many people,” Miller said.

“Everyone has also won trophies and tournaments with their various franchises, so we are as ready as we can be. (We will) try to lap it up and enjoy it the next couple of days more than anything because everyone has what it takes to do something special.”

Meanwhile, Miller joked throughout the media engagement about the Proteas’ “interesting” travel schedules between the Caribbean islands.

Miller’s words were not even cold before the Proteas’ flight from Trinidad to Barbados was delayed for four and half hours due to the closure of a runway at the Grantley Adams airport.

According to report on Cricinfo, the Proteas and their families, along with the commentators and ICC officials were stranded as the Trinidad airport.