Miller Among SA’s Baggage Masters

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Miller among SA's baggage masters. Miller has played 30 matches in ICC tournaments since 2013

Miller Among SA’s Baggage MastersMiller has played 30 matches in ICC tournaments since 2013

You could see a bedpost over David Miller's right shoulder and, over his left, sunshine streaming through a lightly curtained window. There was no baggage in the view he offered from his hotel room in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, but you knew it was there. It had to be.

South Africa have been to 22 ICC tournaments and won only one: the International Cup – nowadays the Champions Trophy – in Bangladesh in 1998. Often they have arrived as favourites and, too often, left having done as much as their opponents to beat themselves. Now that they're at tournament No. 23, the T20 WC, how would they manage all that baggage?

“I genuinely don't like to overthink the past in the sense of taking on baggage and stuff like that,” Miller said. “The famous old saying is that you're only as good as your next game. They normally say as your last game, but Hashim [Amla] always said to me as your next game.

“Yes, there's a lot of chat about the past and this and that. But it's about controlling what we can think of in the moment. I know it's cliche d, but it really does help if you reset the clock and just prepare really well, and control each game as it comes.

“It's difficult to win a World Cup. Only one team can win. So things have got to go your way. Yes, in the past things haven't gone our way. But it's not something we're shying away from. We realise it's a great opportunity to change our lives as players and as a team.”

Baggage there certainly is. How could there not be? South Africa's players know that, even though seven of their squad of 15 haven't been to a World Cup, a Champions Trophy or a T20 WC. Listening to some of those players in the past days, you would be forgiven for thinking South Africa had sent a squad of baggage masters to the tournament.

Here's Aiden Markram last Monday: “We're not bringing too much baggage into this World Cup. Everyone here is pretty free-spirited and not too fazed about being at a World Cup, in a good way. Everyone's very calm so far. Obviously we'll try not to make the same mistakes that we did in 2019, but this is a different format and completely different conditions, and we've got a completely different side.”

Here's Temba Bavuma last Thursday: “In terms of previous South African teams and the pressure or label that's been put on them in these sort of events, we've had those conversations as a team. We've accepted that those types of pressures will always be there until we bring back some sort of silverware. It's not something that we have to carry on our shoulders, especially this bunch of players.”

And here's Kagiso Rabada on Monday: “I don't even actually like to talk about that – baggage or whatever. What's happened in the past has happened in the past. I don't want to talk about it too much. We have a challenge that's in front of us. No one has tried to lose games in the past, and we're coming in with the same mentality. Whether we have baggage or not, it's not worth talking about.”

Bavuma is among those who have no firsthand knowledge of South Africa's pain, but Markram was part of the 2019 World Cup side – which lost five of eight completed games; the South Africans' worst performance on that stage – and Rabada played in the 2016 T20 WC, the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup.

Miller has played 30 matches in ICC tournaments since 2013: two editions each of the World Cup, the Champions Trophy, and the T20 WC. With 350 T20 caps, 90 of them earned at international level, he is easily the most experienced member of a squad in which only Quinton de Kock also has 200 or more T20s and 50 T20Is in the bank.

“There's been a lot of chat about an inexperienced team, but I see it as a great opportunity where we've got a huge amount of experience, actually, in our team,” Miller said. “We've got x-factor players, guys who've travelled all the way round the world, and played in many different competitions. Even inexperienced international players have played a lot of domestic cricket. If we can just try and bring everything together onto one page, be nice and clear, controlling what we can control game by game, I think we're going to go a long way into the competition.”

It's not an easy argument to make because it isn't clear how much experience is enough. South Africa's squad have 1,900 games worth of T20 experience between them, 418 of them internationals. That sounds like a lot until it's measured against Australia, who Bavuma's team take on in Abu Dhabi on Saturday in their first match of the T20 WC. The Aussies have played a combined 2,403 T20s and 590 T20Is. Aaron Finch, David Warner and Glenn Maxwell have each turned out in more than 300 T20s – though none have seen as many as Miller – and eight of their players have 50 or more T20I caps.

But T20 or even T20I experience isn't everything. Amla, a bona fide great of the modern game, played only 44 games in the format for South Africa and 164 all told. Miller shared a dressing room with him in 138 of the 349 internationals he graced, and in many others for the Dolphins.

“What I've learnt from him is to not let failure get you down,” Miller said. “Consistency in performance is what we're striving for, but off the field trying to be a consistent person as well is what we need to strive for. That's what I've really enjoyed about ‘Hash' and his influence – being nice and calm, being there as a pillar of strength, the silent assassin; getting the job done but more so being consistent as a person. It's been a good journey with him. I still keep in touch with him and will continue to do so during this World Cup if necessary for any advice.”

Sadly, for all his towering feats and rock solid character, and like every other former or current South Africa player, Amla will not be able to tell Miller how to win a World Cup. Amla played in nine ICC tournaments, all of them ending less than satisfactorily for his team.

As Miller's online press conference drew to a close, his doorbell rang. Perhaps it was someone from room service bearing a silver platter of advice from those who have been there and done that successfully when an ICC trophy has been on the line. Or a bellhop to take care of the baggage.

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