History has it- all-rounders to South Africa are like fish to water; inseparable and always together.
Be it the likes of Mike Proctor, one of the more famous ones in the pre-isolation era of the late 60s to some of the modern greats like Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Albie Morkel to the current crop of Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius.
One name that hasn’t been spoken of enough in the Protea and World cricketing circles is the Welkom born Brian Mervin McMillan, a contemporary to Pollock, Kallis and Klusener when they began their careers.
Fondly called Big Mac by his former captain Kepler Wessels for his big brother like attitude in the team.
When the team needed a wicket, some steely batting, a verbal missile to the opposition or some advice to his own team mates, Big Mac always welcomed every challenge.
Well, this was not surprising as the city of his birth, Welkom is the Afrikaans word for Welcome.
This place in the Free State lived up to its name, by not only welcoming all South Africans but also folks from Malavi, Lesotho and Mozambique to work on gold fields, thus creating massive employment for South Africans and these nations alike.
Coming back to Brian McMillan, he made his test debut in 1992 against the touring Indian team at Durban, scoring 3 tons in a career that spanned for the better part of the 90s with 38 test matches and 78 ODI games.
Aggression was a natural trait for Brian mixed with a sound defensive technique which held him in good stead to even play in the top order when the situation demanded.
Two of his first three test centuries came against Pakistan and England at the Wanderers and the third against India at Newlands. Two of these resulted in a win for the Proteas against Pakistan and India.
His lone ODI ton came against Zimbabwe in 1995 surmounting a victory thus enabling a total tally of 2809 runs across Tests and ODIs.
His bowling also wasn’t to be taken lightly either, though only a medium pacer, he could spring the occasional bouncer at will to keep the batters always one their toes.
His best bowling figures were 4 for 65 in Tests against New Zealand at Newlands with the Proteas coming on top in that game too.
His ODI exploits were even better with 4 for 32 against India at Port Elizabeth in a winning cause taking his combined wicket tally of 145.
When Brian wasn’t bowling he usually stood at the slips and was one of the most prolific slip catchers for his bulky frame.
In fact he had the highest percentage of catches per Test in South Africa’s history.
Looking at the above statistics one could easily infer that when Big Mac put his hand up, the team invariably soared to victories aplenty.
A batting behemoth, a bowling machine and a slip catching reservoir with bucket like hands, McMillan truly epitomised what an all-rounder should be and was considered one of the best to grace the game.
Post retirement from all forms of cricket in 2000, McMillan became a professional teacher at the University of Durban and now heads an office automation firm in Cape Town.
A respected all-rounder on the field and definitely one off it too, one would say.
Thank you ‘Big Mac’ for showing the determination and resilience to make this great nation proud of one of its less remembered cricketing heroes.
Perhaps also about time that one understood not all who try and give this great sport everything deserve to just be remembered as ‘unsung’ heroes- right?
How difficult is it to acknowledge a simple fact that Cricket isn’t restricted to or represented exclusively by the ‘most popular’ names alone?
The biased lot- the so called opinion-makers, self-proclaimed critics, social media stars, cricket “bloggers” (for whom this great game is less of a sport and more of a game), ludicrously dressed media presenters- are you listening?