View Full Version : McMillan marks his comeback in emphatic style

October 14, 2003, 08:21 AM
McMillan marks his comeback in emphatic style

New Zealand View by Lynn McConnell

October 12, 2003

Craig McMillan: regaining his batting form AFP

Craig McMillan is back, and there will be more than a few cricket enthusiasts in New Zealand who will be happy about that. His long battle in Ahmedabad to help save the first Test match on its last day was the most emphatic statement possible to the New Zealand selectors that he was deserving of his place back in the side.

New Zealand denied India of their expected victory by showing the sort of application in foreign conditions that India was incapable of in New Zealand last summer. When it became apparent early in the day that a run chase was not on the cards, due to the illness of Nathan Astle and the early wickets of Stephen Fleming and Scott Styris, the New Zealanders were forced to defend, and they achieved a draw with a degree of comfort in the end.

Lou Vincent batted as well as he has in recent times in scoring 67 in the second innings, his form should yet confirm the selectors' choice of him as an opening batsman. That issue has taken some time to resolve, with Vincent the meat in the sandwich, not knowing what his permanent role in the side would be as he was shuffled up and down the order.

McMillan's 54 and 83 not out were key parts of crucial stands of 91 and an unbeaten 103 with Astle, who had his own cause for satisfaction after coming back from his knee surgery with 103 and 51 not out. McMillan wouldn't be the first batsman who felt aggrieved at being left out of the side, as he was when the New Zealanders toured Sri Lanka earlier this year. But the selectors had little choice. They could have continued to show faith in McMillan, knowing he would regain his touch; however, they had other players making a case for their own selection, and a tough call had to be made. And they had shown faith by including him in the World Cup side despite poor form.

But having time to think about his future has revitalised McMillan's batting and it was evident in India that he had regained the sort of competitiveness and responsibility that marked some of the earlier innings of his career, most notably the 137-run sixth-wicket second innings stand in the second Test against India with Chris Cairns at the Basin Reserve in 1998-99 which ensured New Zealand an outstanding victory in the first Boxing Day Test in the country.

Later, McMillan began to flirt with different batting styles, and had an outstanding summer in 2001-02. He worked hard over the winter in preparation for the Pakistan's tour to New Zealand and the dangers Saqlain Mushtaq would represent, but he wasn't able to follow up on that last summer. But the selection knockback clearly had its effect and the evidence was there to see for even his harshest critics.

In the process, McMillan moved further up the New Zealand run scoring list and left Jeremy Coney, Mark Burgess and Bert Sutcliffe, three significant batsmen, behind him on the climb to greater things. He also lifted his batting average back over 40 and, given his ability, that is where it should remain.

Not many Test matches go five days nowadays, but this was a fine contest. India had the early advantage and made the most of it with Rahul Dravid continuing the outstanding batting that has marked his contests with New Zealand. But the increased exposure to the spin bowling of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan has made the New Zealand batsmen more confident in their approach and was the secret behind their ability to save this match and set up a fascinating encounter in Mohali.

Wisden Cricinfo Ltd