He’s fierce. He’s bold. He’s all things gold. With an array of explosive shots in his arsenal and his daring approach to display them, South Africa’s David Miller earned the reputation of being one of the hardest hitters of the ball long before T20 cricket gained prominence. He’s not your typical purist, he’s no outright marauder either. But when it comes to envious hand-eye coordination and the ability to clear the ropes with nonchalance, few come closer than this southpaw from Pietermaritzburg. 

“If it’s in the V, it’s in the tree. If it’s in the arc, it’s out of the park.”

It’s not just a mantra David’s father Andrew instilled in him right from his childhood days, when his son chose to pick up a cricket kit instead of the golfing one. It has grown to become his way of life, every time he makes his way out in the middle. We’ve seen him do it in the Protea colours, where he’s played 200+ internationals with an ODI average of 40.73. We’ve seen it in T20 cricket - where he has plied his trade for a host of teams across the globe - and has amassed over 8000 runs in 382 matches, smashing as many as 972 boundaries at will.

In the IPL, David’s batting prowess has been a force to reckon with across the 11 seasons he’s played so far. Over the years, the exposure and experience he gathered has helped him solidify his game - not just as a finisher but also as a watchful accumulator, a planned attacker - as we’ve seen in the past few seasons. He’s no longer someone who goes after the bowler from the first ball that he faces, an aspect he worked hard on as time passed. Instead, he now uses the initial few deliveries just to get his eye in at the crease, assessing the match situation and mentally preparing a game plan. And once he finds his rhythm, attack is the only form of batsmanship he knows. In 105 IPL games, the left-hander has racked up nearly 2500 runs at an impressive strike rate of 137.69.

There’s more to David’s batting than just numbers though. In a pulsating format like Twenty20, his assured personality brings a great deal of calm to those batting with him. There’s an air of unpredictability around him that is exciting to watch as a spectator, but unnerving as a bowler - not knowing what’s coming next. As a fielder, he’s right up there among the very best, with hands safe as houses. As a leader, he’s full of potential after having gained enough experience on the international and the IPL stage. And as someone who can spontaneously cook up a near-perfect impression of Jos Buttler, he’s quite the sport too!

David’s finest knock for the Royals came in 2021, a scintillating 43-ball 62 against Delhi Capitals in a tricky chase of 148. While the Top 4 succumbed to the bowlers in single digits, he held fort at one end and launched a counterattack that included seven fours and two sixes, completely shifting the momentum in his team’s favour. It was a knock that breathed life into the Royals’ innings, bringing them from the brink of collapse to the cusp of victory. 

However, looking beyond just numbers, David grew to be one of the most loved characters in the squad. Having played only for Punjab since his first days in the IPL, moving to a new franchise was going to be challenging for him, particularly from an emotional perspective. But his bustling energy, warm smile and the magical aura he exudes quickly created a special place in the Royals dressing room. Add to that, the positive team environment that he found himself in given the bio-bubble restrictions, and the camaraderie he went on to build with his new teammates made this transition a smooth one. Whether it was at the nets, on the field or even during the team-bonding activities, his presence had a huge influence, especially on the budding players who looked up to him as a guiding force. He was one of those who would speak to the biggest international star and the newest face in the squad in the same way.

“I’ve really enjoyed the professionalism in the squad. Just being amongst the guys, getting to know the players around the world has been awesome. As a player, if you need something, the Royals management goes beyond expectations. The overall experience has been 10/10,” he had said in an interview towards the end of the 2020 season. 

Some of the deep bonds that he formed at the Royals and continues to cherish have been with players like Rahul Tewatia, Anuj Rawat, Manan Vohra.

“Winning and losing is a part of the game but outside of that, what’s more important to me are the lifelong friendships and relationships that we build, and the time we spend together,” he added. We’ve seen his bond with Tewatia flourish earlier this season as well, albeit in another team’s colours.

The 2022 mega auction witnessed a neck-and-neck battle between the Royals and Gujarat Titans to acquire David’s services. In the end, it was GT who ended up buying him and it turned out to be one of their best purchases of the season. Not only did the left-hander have a breakthrough first season with his third franchise, but he also performed brilliantly against the Royals in all three matches - 31* (14) in the league game, 32* (19) in Qualifier 1 and a match-winning 68* (38) in the all-important finale. And although we would’ve loved for him to get these scores against any other side, one can’t help but admire the way ‘Killer Miller’ came into his own this season, stamping his authority as one of the finest finishers in T20 cricket. And despite being the serious competitor that he is on the field, his mesmerising off-the-field demeanour and attachment with the Royals remains the same. 

David’s tweet after he powered GT to the final with his epic six-hitting in Qualifier 1 felt genuine, to say the least. 

We may not have David playing in pink anymore, but his arrival at Barbados Royals marks his return to the Royals family - a place that has always felt like home to the South African. With a strong squad at his disposal, we cannot wait to watch ‘Killer Miller’ in action - as a batter and as captain - as he prepares to marshall his troops with all eyes on the trophy in the upcoming edition of the Caribbean Premier League. 

Once a Royal, always a Royal. Welcome back, David!

What are your thoughts on David Miller? Tweet your thoughts at @rajasthanroyals or share with me, @arey_yaar.