CW Specials: My Close Encounters with Cricketing Greats – Part V: Kersi Meher-Homji

Posted by on Friday, December 15th, 2017 in Cricket

KEITH MILLER

 

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I have the good fortune to know this Australian cricket icon personally. Ask any knowledgeable cricket lover to name 10 greatest all-rounders, 15 fast bowlers, 10 six-hitters, five handsomest cricketers and 10 most interesting characters of the game. And only one name will be there in ALL the lists. It is … Keith Miller, universally loved, respected and feared if you were his contemporary batsman.

 

Tall and handsome, dashing and debonair with a mane of dark hair and nicknamed Nugget, Miller exuded sex and six appeal. According to his biographer Mihir Bose, “the pedigree of his stroke play rivalled [Wally] Hammond’s.”

 

A cricketing great CB Fry said over BBC, “… Miller had the dash and generous abandon that were part of Victor Trumper’s charms.” RC Robertson-Glasgow described Miller’s stroke-play as “dignity with brakes off.”

 

It was his reputation as a six-hitter that made me approach ‘Nugget’ Miller. In 1996 I was writing my book Six Appeal and hesitatingly contacted him over the phone. He was then 75 and recovering from a mild stroke but talked in a friendly manner to a complete stranger.

 

He told me frankly, “Ask me anything on horse racing and classical music but not on cricket statistics. I am not a figures man.”

 

After a short pause he asked me to contact him half an hour later “so that I recollect my thoughts.” When I rang him later he could recall his six-hitting sprees in 3-D effect.

 

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The one six I remember vividly was against England at the SCG. I straight drove [England’s] Alec Bedser and it went a long, long way and landed near the concrete stand. A straight six is the real thing, not a hook or a hoick to mid-on.”

 

I enjoyed Kim Hughes’ splendid six in the Lord’s 1980 Centenary Test.”

 

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Now Keith was getting in top gear and reminiscing as if to an old mate.

 

I’ll tell you a funny story way back from the 1945 unofficial tour of England. I hit a straight six in the direction of BBC commentary room. Rex Alston, the famous English commentator, was on air then and I was told his description went like this: ‘Miller has hit the ball in the air, I think it is coming our way. IT IS COMING OUR WAY’ … and then crash, kaboom as the ball shattered the BBC’s glass pane!”

 

Apart from towering sixers, Miller also specialised in ‘ponders’ – dispatching balls into ponds and rivers. He recalled belting soaring sixes at Eden Gardens, Calcutta, in an unofficial test match against India in 1945-46.

 

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I borrowed a bat from team mate Dick Whitington as we crossed on the way to the crease. Knowing my penchant for smash hits, he asked me to be careful with his bat. I nodded and promptly drove Vinoo Mankad over the sightscreen for four sixes in two overs. All four sixes landed in a pond outside the ground. To Dick’s relief, I was soon stumped!”

 

Miller’s sixes twice sent spectators to hospitals during Australia’s triumphant tours of England in 1948. The young men who were hit returned home safely after having tasted possibly their only brush with fame. Brush with fame? More like a double bang!

 

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After retirement both Whitington and Miller turned journalists and co-authored popular books Cricket Caravan, Straight Hit and Gods or Flannelled Fools among others.

 

He recalled to me belting two more sixes in their watery grave while touring South Africa in 1949-50. At Port Elizabeth against Eastern Province he hit six sixes in his breezy 131. On jogging his memory, he said, “Oh yes, I remember reaching my ton with a six, one of the nicest and longest sixes I ever hit. It cleared the grandstand and landed in a pond in the park outside the ground. It was one of the shots that clicked.”

 

He told me many other exciting stories which are included in my book Six Appeal, published in 1996. When the book was published I presented him a copy. It delighted him and I received a letter full of praises.

 

He passed away in October 2004, aged almost 85. More than thousand mourners filled Melbourne’s St Paul’s cathedral to farewell Australia’s greatest all-rounder. All Australian cricketers wore black armbands during the second Test against India at Chennai.

 

To me, ‘Nugget’ Miller was more than a cricketer. He was Tarzan and Superman rolled into one.

10 responses to “CW Specials: My Close Encounters with Cricketing Greats – Part V: Kersi Meher-Homji”

  1. Soma sundaram vedula says:

    Well written..I couldn’t help thinking that Miller was lucky in a sense that he did not live as Warne has in the era of celebrity journalism and promotion….Nice article..

  2. Somasundaram V.. says:

    I couldn’t help thinking that Miller was lucky in a sense that he did not live as Warne has in the era of celebrity journalism and promotion…nice article..well written…

  3. AN Other says:

    >> I hit a straight six in the direction of BBC commentary room.

    He hit a six that failed to the clear the Lord’s pavilion by a couple of meters or so. This is not the same hit, is it ?

    • No AN Other, it was another hit. Miller and tall sixes were synonymous.
      Anindya encouraged me to continue. Next will be my close association with the Benaud family followed by Jim Laker and the Waugh family.

  4. AN Other says:

    I thought this was a four part series. So thanks for continuing 🙂

    • Anindya Dutta says:

      Yes I encouraged Kersi to continue as he has many stories in his head from the decades he has been following the game and it’s nice to put them down. There are more recollections coming in the next few weeks.

  5. Michael Jones says:

    Miller is clearly exaggerating in some of these cases. Eden Gardens is a big ground, and the pond isn’t immediately adjacent to it – measuring on Google Maps, it’s a carry of at least 140m from the crease to the pond – over 160m if the shots were drives, since they would have to be made from the further crease. Charles Davis’s research on the biggest hits (http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1026113/the-longest-shot) found none which could be verified as over 135m, and mentioning Miller specifically, that none of his were known to exceed 120m. That he could have hit even one ball into the pond is extremely unlikely; four in two overs is certainly impossible.

    As for the Port Elizabeth match, there is no pond in the vicinity of the ground, but there is an outdoor swimming pool so I presume Miller must have been thinking of that. In that case it’s again over 140m from the crease to the pool – implausible that anyone could make a hit into it.

    • Anindya Dutta says:

      Michael – I agree its astounding to think of a 140-metre hit if indeed the pond and the ground are exactly where they were then in terms of actual distance (a lot of development has taken place around Eden Gardens over this period and the area has changed beyond recognition, so it is conceivable we are talking about a different pond). But the stands were not as high then as they are now so a ball going over the stadium could very well bounce and roll unobstructed into such a pond. I know when I posted this article on facebook a couple of people have liberally labeled Miller a liar (that word is indeed used liberally in that forum) but perhaps there may be more to the Miller memory than one would conclude at first glance.

  6. You could be correct, Michael Jones. I wrote what Miller told me. I used his quotes in my book “Six Appeal” published in 1996 when Miller was alive. No reviewer from Australia or England contradicted his claims.
    I appreciate your research and learned comments. Thank you.

  7. Ritesh says:

    Trivia Keith Miller’s baggy green cap was auctioned in 2006 . the buyer gifted it to Justin Langer

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