South Africa are a complex puzzle.
They can often be unsolvable.
Imagine a Rubik’s Cube that’s designed in a way that it cannot be solved? How strange would that be?
Moreover, being a South Africa supporter means willingly stepping on an exhaustive journey, one that’s marked with suffocating moments.
The ride can compel you to wonder, on occasions, to shoot yourself on the foot.
For instance, how easy was it for a die-hard fan to deal with three isolated but utterly painful instances:
1) When the news of Dale Steyn’s departure from the World Cup arrived. This is when Steyngun hadn’t even bowled once in the series.
2) When years back a scoreboard revealed: South Africa require 22 off 1.
Hilarity ensued when the 1992 World Cup offered an iconic cricketing outfit that kind of an ask.
This year alone, losing 3 in 3 in the world cup, South Africa have compelled their supporters to sit down with a box of tissue on the couch.
But not all of South Africa is about pain and the agony. A lot of it is about making the difficult seem ridiculously easy.
Long before Shai Hope became a regular West Indian feature, Joffra Archer bowled his first delivery in the sport, Kohli led India to a win in his first-ever appearance as a captain in an ODI World Cup, David Miller arrived to dislodge bowlers from the popping crease.
For someone whose reputation is built around ‘terrorizing’ bowlers, it’s incredible how unaffectedly does David Miller go about doing his job for South Africa.
At all times where he’s sending the quicker one straight down the ground or the flighted delivery to the treetops engulfing a stadium, David Miller seems unapologetically, David Miller-like: ruthless, focused, and utterly calm.
Not the guy who expresses an awful lot. Not a bloke who offers lip-service to bowlers, reminding modern cricket and its social media-obsessing aficionados that the sport can still be minus shenanigans, David Miller has made a reputation for playing clean, sincere and passionate cricket for South Africa.
He debuted in 2010 after multiple seasons of starring for the Dolphins and South Africa A, and immediately gave evidence of his batting exploits.
Versus the very team against whom he’d be seen sitting at the balcony of the Rose Bowl (a few hours ago), his eyes piercing through the unstoppable rain in a silly “No Result”, Miller would score 54 from the 3 games.
Back in 2010, against the Windies, he would strike fours and sixes at a rate of 122, being undefeated in 2 innings out of 3. A year later, he’d score 84 runs from just 2 innings. Of these, he’d be undefeated in 1.
This time, he’d strike at a whopping 168.
For a batsman who began scoring fluently at no.5 or 6, a position by which time half of the team’s core has returned to the dugout, David Miller would build a reputation on holding on to an end while scoring at an exorbitant rate.
It’s part of the unflinching DNA of his game, something he’s held on to, nearly a decade after taking South Africa over the line by just 1 run in a nail-biting T20, which marked his debut.
As a competitor, he’s only grown by leaps and bounds in the tricky batting cauldron he’s asked to deliver from, without seemingly breaking into a sweat, without ever participating in a contest showing disregard for his opponents or the sport whilst wearing the Protean greens proudly.
From collecting 150 in 2010, the year of his ODI debut to 544 from 24 innings in 2013 to 729 from just 21 innings in 2015, David Miller has defied expectations, given everyone- whether an Ashwin, DJ Bravo, Boult, Ali, Southee- a run for their money and sent captains on a nervous nail-biting spree.
Above all, he’s raised the bar for the role of a specialist lower-order batsman, one who is more than just pummelling short-pitched bowling, one who brings a panache to the game without compromising on a sense of responsibility.
As a Protean, he brings more than flair to a fiery batting line-up, one that’s ever-susceptible of self-designed fragilities, of the kinds we are seeing in the 2019 World Cup.
He brings a sense of reassurance that a contest isn’t over until Miller’s wicket down the order has been taken.
As an unabashed hitter of big sixes, those half a dozens that offer aerial kisses and hugs to fans from the skies, David Miller conjures a sight that can often signal the end of the road for South Africa’s opponents.
He did that en route to the 139 at Hobart-in 2018- during an exhibition of hitting that would’ve likened him to Mike Tyson going on a savage assault against the Aussies in their own backyard, even as Faf didn’t mind one bit as his 125 was overshadowed.
He did that in 2016-17 when off just 79 balls- the leftie offered a “leopard-like” mauling to Hastings, Marsh, Head, and Zampa- scoring 118.
10 fours and 6 sixes meant he’d more than overcome Smith and Warner’s nearly heroic tons. David Miller, a few summers ago, proved that being a stylish anti-thesis can be really riveting.
This is what he would’ve wanted to do yesterday against the West Indies.
This is what he can still offer his captain who will look toward him to run into a Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, and the likes akin to a Ferrari on full-throttle.
At 30, with some meaty knocks against his name, David Miller sits 9 runs shy of 3000 ODI runs and perhaps still in possession of the many rasp cuts, huge heaves, and mighty flicks that those strong forearms can offer that can send crowds into a dance-sequence.
He may not be the most dependable batsman in a precarious situation vis-a-vis the likes of a Faf with arguably, more experience and Amla, with more technical prowess.
And make no mistake, his cricket doesn’t have the 360-degree range that one of his famous compatriots exhibited, time and again.
But how many can offer to slice bowlers and shatter hopes using no more than the 180-degree arc from extra-cover to square leg?