David Miller: 'I'm in awe of Dhoni's chases. I want to finish games like he does'by Interview by Sruthi Ravindranath
David Miller is among the most experienced players on the T20 circuit, with 319 matches under his belt and having played in the IPL since 2012. Miller, who is known for his penchant for big hitting and stepping up in crunch situations to finish games, had a breakout IPL season in 2013, his second year with Kings XI Punjab, when he made 418 runs in 12 matches, including a 38-ball 101 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Although he hasn't quite managed to recapture the highs of that season since, he has taken on the role of a finisher on several occasions, and has emerged as a mainstay in the side.
Miller was released by Kings XI Punjab ahead of the 2020 auction and this year will feature for a new franchise, the Rajasthan Royals. He spoke to us about his role as a finisher, his learnings from watching MS Dhoni and playing alongside big names in the Royals side this IPL.
How do you calibrate a T20 innings as a middle-order batsman?
It varies from game to game. Being in the middle order, you are always going to come in in different situations, differing scenarios. I think it's about adapting as quick as possible and knowing exactly what your role is when you walk in to bat. Whether you need 12 an over, 14 an over or whatever it is, you need to adapt to that position as quickly as possible. Being in the middle order, because the game unfolds before you bat, you have a good idea of what the conditions are going to be like. Just to sort of give yourself the best chance in order to win a game, you have always got to take calculated risks throughout your innings, and I make sure I'm staying positive in my movement, calling, running etc.
You've only just linked up with the Royals side in the UAE. Have there been any discussions with the management about what role you're expected to play?
I haven't had any discussion with [Royals head coach] Andrew McDonald so it's more just preparing and hitting balls and getting back to the swing of things, as I haven't hit balls for a good few months. It's about getting your body going, getting the feet going. In terms of plans and roles and stuff, we're yet to get into that.
"Right now it's more about making good friends and building relationships. IPL has a huge space for that, where overseas players can get to know each other on a personal level"
The pitches are generally on the slower side in the UAE. Do you plan to tweak your big-hitting method?
I've played in Dubai for some time now [preparing]. It's certainly not like any other conditions I've played in before. I feel like I'm pretty well prepared. [I had] two to three weeks before to come and think about exactly the way I'm going to go in this year's IPL. I'm really excited for it and I think the conditions are normally very good. It's going to be set for a good IPL.
You were with Kings XI for nine years. How did your roles and responsibilities within the team change over the years?
I think there is a natural sort of journey. You always start off as a youngster and you find your feet in the team, and then as you get older you get a lot more responsibility as a senior player, performance-wise and in many different aspects. I think that's a journey that we're all on. I really enjoyed it there, I had some great, great memories and it certainly was a good time. But looking forward to Rajasthan [Royals] and creating some memories and new moments here.
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Of the two of your best scores in IPL, your 101 not out against RCB came in a win, and the other, the 89 not out against SRH in 2015, was in a defeat. The circumstances and targets were quite similar in both matches. As someone who is expected to finish games, what do you think was the biggest difference in the way you approached these two innings that had different results?
It's just the way the cookie crumbles, I suppose. In the sense that against RCB there were definitely some moments that went our way - I got dropped on 41 and then we went on to win the game. The 89 not out, I think if you're going at a 150-200 strike rate and you still happen to lose the game then it's just unfortunate. I think in both games we needed 13-14 an over, so it is definitely hard to win a game like that - you're going to lose more than you win. Just, against RCB things went our way a little bit more, I probably hit more boundaries that day.
Among all the other experienced finishers in the format, where do you place yourself? Do you take pointers from the way they handle a crunch situation?
I think we're all very different in the way we think we play. I absolutely love the way Dhoni goes about his business. Certainly his calmness - you just think he's always under control. The way he portrays himself, that's something he's extremely good at and I do enjoy that about him. I try and give off the same energy. But in terms of an actual chase, he's got his strengths and weaknesses as a batsman and so do I. I tend to be in awe of some of his chases rather than "I want to bat like him." I suppose I just want to finish games like he does. Technique-wise and the way you go about it, we all have our own ways. I don't think I can rate myself or put myself in a category. We'll see how my career unfolds and finishes and then we can look back and sort of judge. Definitely Dhoni is one of the best finishers ever; he's proven it many times. I love watching him play.
You've had a great few seasons for Kings XI, but the last two years have been different - you haven't been as consistent as you were and your strike rate has fallen too. What has happened and how are you working on your consistency?
I haven't been playing. The last couple of years I haven't been playing for Kings XI. I suppose that's one of the reasons why I haven't been winning games as well. But in terms of consistency, I feel I'm better than ever before. I'm a lot more experienced now. I know what I'm expected to do. On the international stage I feel like I'm doing really well. In the IPL I had one bad season for Kings XI - and when I say bad season, it wasn't as good as the previous ones that I had. It wasn't a horrific season, to say the least. In the IPL there are only four overseas players [in the playing XI] and there are often seven to ten overseas players in the squad. There will always be players who are going to miss out, and if you happen to not have a great run, you sort of lose that position and you just don't play. I missed the boat the last couple of years in terms of playing and I think it's created a thing that I've not been playing well. The games that I've played in, I have contributed.
Do you think your best is yet to come?
Definitely. I feel I'm very experienced, very well put together in my mind and a lot calmer. I'm still learning - everyone learns along the way. I'm certainly very excited about the latter part of my career and really looking forward to putting on some big performances. I've certainly got a lot to offer.
ALSO READ: 'I don't have to be the captain to take on a leadership role for South Africa'
AB de Villiers is among the best in the business and you've played alongside him in the South Africa side. Have you had any interesting conversations with him in the last few years about batting in this format?
AB and I being so close together in the Proteas side, we used to bat together often and I was fortunate to be sharing the dressing room with him. He's very knowledgeable. I really enjoyed observing how he prepared, how he went about his business for South Africa. He's always open for chats and advice and stuff like that. I've had some good chats from him and certainly want to learn from him.
In a previous interview with ESPNcricinfo, you said you didn't have to be the captain to take on a leadership role. Has this seniority given you a fresh perspective?
Definitely. Being around for a long time, responsibilities come on and off the field as a senior player. Not many guys get the opportunity to captain. I feel like I can offer a lot more, even by not being captain, behind the scenes with youngsters and leading by example at training and matches.
We might get to see you play alongside Ben Stokes in the middle order. There are also other big names like Steven Smith, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer in the Royals side...
I think overseas we've got some world-class players, so I'm really chuffed to be rubbing shoulders alongside them. To bat with Ben Stokes would be great fun, and I know the way he plays the game. He's a match winner, he's dynamic, so to share the crease with him would be great.
Whether the T20 World Cup comes up or not is irrelevant. For me it's about building relationships. IPL has a huge space for that, where overseas players can get to know each other on a personal level. Whether we get into the Australian or English dynamics of how they go about their cricket, that's still to be found out. Right now it's more about making good friends and building relationships.