Keith Miller Biography
Keith Miller was a flame of brilliance that lit up post-War days on the cricket field. He batted with gay abandon, with spectacular hitting that overshadowed an excellent technique. He bowled from long and short run-ups, often peeling the gel off the batsman’s hair with a quick one from a few steps or fooling him with a slow leg-break after running in fifteen paces. And sometimes, he interrupted animated conversations in the slips to take acrobatic blinders.
Besides, he loved life. With his bosom buddy Denis Compton, he often painted the town red before turning up at the Test match to set the field on fire. “Outstanding as he was, the game was for him only a part of living life as a man might do,” wrote John Arlott.
This led to severe run-ins with captain and later selector Don Bradman. But, the same attitude won him legions of fans. Cricket loving Prime Minister Robert Menzies kept a photograph of a perfect Miller square drive on his office desk. Ian Wooldridge called him “the golden boy” of cricket, leading to the nickname “Nugget”. Cardus referred to him as Australian in excelsis.
During the Second World War, Miller flew Mosquitoes, was sent on several action-filled missions, had quite a few near-death experiences, and played a lot of cricket in England. These led to his famed quote: “Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing cricket is not.”
In the Victory ‘Tests’, Miller scored 105 in the first, 118 in the fourth, took six wickets in the third, hit Len Hutton on the arm and Cyril Washbrook on the head in the second.
He was soon an important member of the Invincibles. Bradman needed him more as a fast bowler, and this led to his batting lower down the order and the start a fearsome opening partnership with Ray Lindwall.
All class while batting, with a rifle like straight drive, elegant cuts, effortless pulls and sweeps, Miller was capable of hitting sixes with backhand tennis shots. As a bowler, he had a classical high-arm action, and moved the ball both ways and sharply. He sometimes bowled from fifteen paces, sometimes five, often resetting a troublesome disc of his lower back with his fingers between balls. Occasionally generating more pace than Lindwall, he mixed it up with leg-breaks, looping slower balls or wicked round arm deliveries.
And then there was more to him than mere cricket. Once he arrived to captain New South Wales still wearing his last evening's tux and set the field with a single command: “Scatter.” Satisfied, he took seven for 12 to bowl South Australia out for 27. On another occasion, being told that his team had 12 players, he asked for one of them to volunteer to “piss off”.
Miller ended with 2,958 runs at 36.97 and 170 wickets at 22.97 from 55 Tests. The figures put him at the top of the list of all-rounders when he retired, and has been matched by only the likes of Garry Sobers, Imran Khan and Jacques Kallis since then.