As far as Bradman goes, Miller is an enormous admirer still – of both the man and the cricketer – though he does acknowledge they had one or two differences in their approach on the field. That was apparent, from the very first Test he played.
The Australians had batted first, amassing a score of some 600 runs over the first two days – including the usual 180-odd from the Don. Overnight, though, a Queensland tropical storm had hit, making the ‘sticky wicket’ all but unplayable for the English when they took the crease.
‘All the English players were war boys,’ Miller recalls, ‘and they were my best mates. At one point I’m bowling, and there was little Billy Edrich facing. He was the toughest little guy you could ever meet, a lovely guy, Bill, and he got a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying over Germany in the early part of the war, when it was like winning a Victoria Cross.’
‘And I’m bowling … and I kept hitting him … bang … bang … and I thought “Oooooh, that’s [my mate] Billy,” and so I started to ease up, started to slow down, fill in time, thought “We’ll win this anyway and that’s it” … so I slowed down.’
‘So Don came up to me, and he said, “Nugget, bowl it faster, it’s harder to play this stuff on these pitches.” Well that one remark … I thought, “Here’s my mate [Billy]” … And then I thought, [had we been] playing cricket in England, where it’s a sport, a real sport [it would have been different].
Here we’ve got, the war’s just over, and we’ve got Don who was only in the war five minutes here – and here’s all these fellows, all been to war in the real tough parts of the war … just come out here for a lovely trip … and suddenly they run into this.’
‘And when Don says, “Oh Nugget, bowl faster, it’s hard to play that type of stuff on this pitch” … I just thought, “We’ve just finished one war, and it’s like walking into another war.” And that really turned me completely against Test cricket as it was played then. That took the sting out of me, as far as playing cricket and enjoying it. Test cricket suddenly went from a sport to a war. I [got through] it, but for quite a while it stuck in my mind, that.”
*Extract from The Best Ever Australian Sports Writing (A 200 Year Collection) edited by David Headon