December 16, 2013


David Ellis

WATCHING fast bowler Mitchell Johnson rout England in the First Test in Brisbane last month took us back a lot of years to another extraordinary player with not just the ball, but the bat as well, and that was the flamboyant, larger-than-life Keith 'Nugget' Miller.

Arguably Australia's greatest-ever all-rounder, Miller was a hero to those of us in the decade between the end of World War II and when he retired in 1956 – amassing 2,958 runs and taking 170 wickets at an average 23, in 55 Tests.

Standing 1.88m (6ft 2ins) he was an explosive batsman, thrilling fast bowler and an outstandingly athletic slips fielder, and with swashbuckling good looks and a totally irreverent manner, found himself the idol of many a young lady's eye – and not averse to the attention paid to him from those as diverse as State beauty title-holders to royalty (Britain's Princess Margaret was an unabashed admirer,) despite being married with four sons.

Broad-shouldered, with wavy dark hair, a flashing smile and at-times maverick behaviour both on and off the field, Miller was said by a British sports writer to have "lit up the dull post-war days" of England when the Australians, led by Don Bradman, visited in 1948 – the team being dubbed The Invincibles after winning 4 of the Ashes Tests and drawing the 5th.

And it was not just during that season's Tests that Miller made headlines. In a game against an Essex side when he went in to bat with the Australians 2/364, and with Bradman after as big a sum as possible, instead of a swashbuckling performance to further demoralise the home side, Miller pulled his bat away from the first ball and was bowled for a duck.

Bradman was furious, the more so when Miller turned to the wicket-keeper and said: "Thanks God that's over," and strolled off the field. The Australians went on to amass 721 runs.

This somewhat devil-may-care attitude extended to almost every aspect of his life. He enjoyed a punt, mixed with the rich and famous as easily as he did with mates at his local pub, and enjoyed a good party.

On one tour he surprised captain Bradman by banging on his hotel door fully dressed at midnight and announcing: "You said we had to be in bed by curfew. I was – and now I'm going out." He came back in time for breakfast, and with an almighty hang-over Bradman despatched him for that day's play to the farthest point in the field. It meant Miller had to walk or jog across the field constantly after every over – until a friendly local offered him his pushbike. When Miller took up the offer, Bradman again was not amused, and ordered him off it.

On another occasion back in Australia, Miller as captain of a NSW side turned up to play still dressed in a tuxedo from the night before, changed hurriedly and when he went to bowl his first over had it pointed out by the umpire that he was still wearing his night before's dancing pumps.

Conversely, Keith Miller loved classical music, especially Beethoven, and having been seconded in WWII to Britain's RAF for his prowess as a pilot, on one raid over Germany broke off from his squadron and flew up the Rhine River to Bonn. After circling the city a couple of times he caught up with his compatriots flying home to Britain, explaining when he landed: "Bonn was where Beethoven was born. I was curious to have a look at it."
And in a radio interview with England's Michael Parkinson, Miller was asked about "pressure on the field."

He answered: "Pressure? Pressure is flying a Mosquito at 20,000 feet with a Messerschmitt up you're a--e!"

Keith Miller's name is inscribed on two Honour Boards in the Visitors' Dressing Room at Lord's, the "home of cricket" in London – one is for a Test century he scored there in 1953, and the other for taking 10 Test wickets three years later.

And he's one of only four Australians whose portraits hang in the revered Long Room at Lord's, the others being Don Bradman, Victor Trumper and Shane Warne.

Nice tributes to a cricketer whose first impression of Lord's was "it's a crummy little ground".



[] KEITH Miller plays a classic square cut. (Unknown photographer)
[] THE 1948 Australian "Invincibles" Ashes side, Keith Miller is second on right.   
   (Australian Cricket Board)
[] LONDON's Lord's Cricket Ground – the 'Home of Cricket' – which Miller initially
   Thought was "a crummy little ground." (England & Wales Cricket Board)
[] THE Pavilion built at Lord's in 1890 is today British Heritage Listed. (WikiMedia)
[] BY contrast the extraordinary almost "Star Wars" modern new Media Centre at Lord's.
   (Malcolm Andrews)
[] WHAT it's all about: the little urn containing "The Ashes. (WikiMedia)


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