David Miller: From Teen Player to International Star celebrates his 33rd Birthday

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David Miller’s father Andrew gave him a plastic golf set when he was around three years old. He carefully rolled a ball towards the toddler, and David swung the little club over his father’s head with a smooth straight stroke. “I expected him to swing across the line as most kids his age do.” Andrew tells the Indian Express, “I never anticipated he’d hit clean over my head.”

He yelled with delight. His wife advised him to be cautious. So I went back to the same spot and bowled again. “The result was the same, right over my head,” he adds, his voice evoking the ecstasy he felt nearly three decades earlier. “One day, he will play for South Africa,” he said to his wife. “I didn’t mean it as a prophecy at the time,” he recalls, “but the idea came to me immediately.”

Soon after, David put down his golf club and grabbed his father’s cricket bat. Andrew, a racehorse auctioneer who used to play club cricket in Natal, proudly recounts his lone List appearance. He knew he had to make an appearance for the province, so he began dragging his kid along for practice.

He claims he didn’t force cricket on David; rather, cricket forced itself on him. “Everything occurred naturally,” he adds, “and certainly, he grew up in an atmosphere with a lot of cricket and cricketers, some of whom were coaches and some of whom were active players as well, individuals like Graham Ford, Robin Smith, and Harry Brown (his first coach).”

National and first-class players used to drop by for a Sunday afternoon braai or an evening drink at the David Miller residence in Pietermaritzburg. Andrew also made certain that David was placed in schools that were known for their cricket programs. Clifton, a Midlands town for whom he bowled a 50-ball century when he was just ten years old, and then Maritzburg College, the alma mater of Kevin Pietersen and other notables.

When he relocated to Durban, he brought his kid with him in order to enroll him in Ford’s coaching program. And cricket was David’s only idea or plan for the rest of his life. “It’s only cricket.” “We never explored an alternate career strategy since he was completely committed to the game,” he recalls.

There was, however, a snag for Andrew. “I promised my wife I was going to retire the day my son started playing club football.” Now she was pushing me to quit, but I had an excuse: my younger son (four years David’s junior) had started playing club cricket. Anyway, I played the game until I was 47 years old, and I had some wonderful relationships with David. “However, he always struck straight, whereas my favorite spot was the cow cordon,” he laughs.

But that wasn’t the last time he stepped up to a level above his years and proved his worth.

From a young age, courage was instilled in me

Mike Bechet,iller’s Maritzburg College coach, recalls the sight vividly. During a U-19 game between Maritzburg and St John’s, Miller lay sprawled on the ground, grimacing and screaming in pain as a short-pitched ball from a strapping fast bowler cannoned against his chest.

Even after 17 years, the coach recalls his name. “It was Scott Spedding, a terrible opening fast bowler,” he recalls telling this publication, no doubt aided by the fact that Spedding soon changed sports and countries, playing rugby for France.

His decision was based on two indicators that wise veteran coaches look for in their charges. Miller’s term ended with them acting more like a father and son, and he had to be firm at times.

A sharper head, a better grasp of his game, and a more daring attitude against spinners have all aided him in becoming the world-beater his coach and father had predicted years ago. Miller’s moments of vulnerability had long passed, and those early memories began to flood them—him throwing the plastic ball over Andrew’s head, or him rebounding from a chest hit and producing a bold knock, and how their first impressions of Miller had turned out to be prescient.

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