Miller a sure bet for Proteas

2013-05-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — There will inevitably be a clamour for David Miller to be installed swiftly as the Proteas’ trump card in the forthcoming ICC Champions Trophy tournament in the United Kingdom.

MIller wrote his name into the headlines with his power-hitting performance for Kings XI Punjab in Monday’s IPL match against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Mohali.

The Pietermaritzburg-born left-hander’s match-winning, whirlwind knock of 101 not out off just 38 balls, and at a supersonic strike rate of 265, is the talk of cricket-crazy India, with “Killer Miller” headlines and posters reportedly in strong evidence.

Supporters in KwaZulu-Natal who have keenly tracked his progress since he made his first-class debut at the age of 17 will not be especially startled by the extent of his carnage at the crease; his ability to smash the ball far and hard is well known in the province and the broader South African landscape.

Known to be especially lethal striking the ball straight back down the ground or on the outer fringes of the proverbial “V”, those qualities were very much in evidence on Monday.

Miller (23), pleasingly, seems to be a batsman on a fruitful restorative mission after going through a couple of years in which slight corrections — or dwindling effectiveness — were experienced.

But players can emerge from these periods stronger, more learned and hungry to make up lost ground.

So the timing of Miller’s extraordinary onslaught could hardly be better, with the Proteas’ first match against India in the Champions Trophy, in Cardiff, now less than a month away.

Nor is it as though the middle-order bomber’s fireworks came out of the blue. He has been in excellent form throughout the IPL and entered the latest fixture on the back of successive innings of 51 not out against the Chennai Super Kings and 56 against the Mumbai Indians.

Throw in the fact that Miller had also been showing signs of renaissance in a green South African shirt towards the end of the 2012/13 summer — decent, purposeful knocks in two ODI outings at the critical tail-end of the series against Pakistan — and you get a clear picture of a man on a mission.

Yet a certain tempering phenomenon cannot be completely ignored.

It is not out of the question, after all, that Miller would not have made the 15-strong Champions Trophy squad, announced only last Thursday, had it not been for Jacques Kallis’s disappointing, late non-availability.

South Africa have considerable rebalancing to do without Kallis’s glittering array of all-round skills. It means, in essence, that they will carry a fluffier tail than they might like next month, given the probable need now for all-bowling components between positions seven and 11 in the order.

And Miller does not offer a bowling option.

In an ideal world, Miller is tailor-made for the No. 7 slot in the Proteas’ ODI plans, but if he is to be accommodated under present circumstances, it will almost certainly have to be a rung higher at six.

But playing for his country, he has yet to demonstrate that he is capable of doing a stabilising job in the event of a clatter of early wickets.

The Champions Trophy is not only over 50 overs an innings, but is also to be played in conditions likely to be greatly more challenging for batsmanship than the very deliberate IPL belters.

As much as you need forceful finishers, you also require a comforting enough battery of solid starters in your line-up.

If Miller is going to make the cut at No. 6, the Proteas have then got to work out how to assemble the best possible top five from a field of candidates that will include the rightful presence of a fit-again JP Duminy in addition to Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram and Farhaan Behardien.

Miller’s inclusion will pose strategic problems, but we’ve also been served another reminder, in Mohali, of the role that he can play.

The Champions Trophy will provide a fresh examination of David Andrew Miller’s top-tier credentials and his ability to make up some ground in terms of adding statistical weight to the Proteas’ cause.

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