Kolkata - There are some batsmen who score soft runs, and there are others who perform when their team need it most.
David Miller has shown over his illustrious career that he belongs in the latter group.
The Proteas’ inability to get over the line in major ICC tournament semi-finals has often been laid at the door of the senior players’ inability to perform when the lights are brightest.
They sure were shining in the gloom of Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in Thursday’s World Cup semi-final against Australia, when Miller strode to the crease with South Africa reeling at 24/4 against the Australians.
But the 34-year-old David Miller stood his ground, showing off the qualities of a Test-match batsman to initially negate Australia’s impressive seamers, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, before launching a counter-attack against leg-spinner Adam Zampa.
It was the cornerstone of a brilliant 101 (off 116 balls, 8x4, 5x6) that gave South Africa a fighting chance.
It was also in line with Miller’s previous performances in semi-finals over the years. In the 2015 World Cup epic against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland, the southpaw blasted 49 off only 18 balls.
He also scored 23 not out in the 2016 T20 Word Cup semi-final against India in Dhaka, while there was another undefeated 56 against England in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final at The Oval in 2013.
Miller would, however, trade all these contributions just for South Africa to get over the line and progress to a World Cup final for the first time.
“It’s pretty frustrating, to be honest. Quinny (Quinton de Kock) mentioned with his four hundreds, he is okay not to score any runs and win the trophy. Individuals have stood out ... to lose this is pretty frustrating,” Miller said after the three-wicket defeat to Australia at Eden Gardens.
“We’re happy to have hung in there and put up a total, but you want to get through to the final and have a crack at the trophy.”
Unlike in 2015 in Auckland, which left the Proteas shattered after their last-over defeat to New Zealand – with Dale Steyn left sprawled on the turf and many openly sobbing – Miller feels differently about the latest reversal against the Aussies.
“There were a lot more tears in Auckland ... not a great feeling to lose a World Cup semi-final. But we had a great campaign from the team, consistent performances (in the 2023 edition),” the left-hander said.
“Before the tournament started, we talked about just having great memories and enjoying the journey. We ticked a lot of boxes ... can definitely look back and say we had a great time.
“It doesn’t help losing a semi-final, but guys showed a lot of character. The guys are definitely going to win a World Cup. We showed what we can do.”
Having now been part of three World Cup campaigns in 2015, 2019 and here in 2023, Miller is approaching the twilight of his international career.
With plenty of T20 franchise opportunities available to Miller – he currently plays in the IPL, SA20, MLC and CPL – what are the chances of him pushing through to the home World Cup in 2027?
“I will see how it goes. I can’t answer how my body feels. I’m going to take it year by year and assess. It’s a long way away now,” he said.
Whenever Miller does bow out, he will be remembered as one of South Africa’s finest white-ball cricketers.