Callaghan: Keep Miller to CWC

David Miller (Gallo Images)
David Miller (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – David Miller, the man with the primary role as key “finisher” in the Proteas’ one-day international side, must stay in the mix for the long haul.

That is the plea of Dave Callaghan, a predecessor in a not dissimilar capacity for South Africa in the period between 1992 and 2000.

Popular former Eastern Province all-rounder Callaghan, now 48 and new business manager for Capitec Bank (Eastern Cape), was speaking to Sport24 at the Momentum Cricket Sixes event at Claremont Cricket Club this weekend.

He has retained his affection for the game, helping out on a consultancy basis to Grey High School first team, and is perhaps best remembered in his career for a spectacular knock of 169 not out –operating as a pinch-hitter at the top of the order that day – against New Zealand at Centurion in 1994/95.

It is the third-highest score by a South African in ODIs, behind later innings from Gary Kirsten (188 not out) and Herschelle Gibbs (175).

Callaghan says he was pleased to see the left-handed Miller come off, with 56 not out off only 34 balls, despite the dead-rubber third ODI against India a few days ago being abandoned after the South African knock due to rain.

The KwaZulu-Natalian’s runs came after a lean personal spell, but Callaghan had been less concerned than most anyway: “ Yes, his runs were (timely) but I think I can speak from some experience in saying people perhaps under-estimate that area around No 5 and 6 in a one-day side.

“It’s a tough position because you’re either going in earlier than you might like to salvage things, or otherwise you go in for the last 10 overs or so and are required to start scoring straight away at seven an over.

“Too often I think that when a team experiences a few losses on the trot, there is critical assessment of No 5 and 6 rather than looking enough at slots one to four -- those middle-order berths thus become vulnerable ones, which doesn’t help the guys (operating there), who have enough disadvantage because you can’t get the opportunity to settle in.

“Looking back on my career, it took me some time to gain proper confidence in my ability in that middle order. It was only after 20-something games, and getting that 169, that I realised to myself ‘you know what, you are actually good enough to be here’.

“And by then it was almost too late for me, because a youth policy was beginning with people like Jacques (Kallis) and Herschelle coming through.

“That’s why it’s so important for South Africa to give Dave Miller a decent run, to gain confidence. In his slot, you can’t be too quick to judge a guy by (his statistics).

“It’s pointless putting guys in and out all the time in that middle area; it’s a hazardous job at the best of times.”

Callaghan agreed that because the Proteas no longer boasted known lethal, long-handle users like Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock towards the back end of the order, it only cranked up the pressure on someone like Miller to come off.  

“He is seen as the big ‘go-to’ for finishing the innings these days -- but to take some of the pressure off we mustn’t under-estimate the abilities of some of the all-rounders who come in a bit lower than him, like Ryan (McLaren) or Wayne Parnell.

“I think when all three are playing, it’s a formidable side.”

Until the sound 2-0 beating of top-ranked India very recently, Callaghan admitted he had been “getting a little concerned” about the Proteas’ patchy ODI form.

“We’ve been hearing for the last 18 months or so how we’re planning, building up, that sort of thing. I would really like to see the guys settling now into a pattern and picking a regular side so we can keep gaining confidence and have a team capable of winning the World Cup.

“I don’t talk to them a lot but I think Russell (Domingo) and his colleagues now know more where they are going – for me the pleasing thing is seeing guys like Miller coming through now, and there’s also JP (settling back) in a middle-order role.

“The fact that the next World Cup will be in Australia should really suit us. There’ve been a few on the Subcontinent, with its very different needs, and perhaps England in ’99 was the one we came closest to winning and should have.

“But I do think Australia of all the destinations so far is the one that gives us best chance. There you can get away with loading up your seam department and we don’t have to go through the whole Subcontinent thing of ‘who do we use to spin and are they going to be good enough?’  

“Just seeing the way a match-winner like AB (de Villiers) is playing at the moment ... let’s hope he and one or two others can sustain that for the next year in the lead-up, and by the time we get there are in best possible form.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
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