Club Cricket Conference

Thursday, 29th October 2020

The Journey of Donovan Miller

Given he’s a globally recognised Twenty20 coach and his involvement with England’s World Cup and Ashes campaignlast summer, it's a surprise that Donovan Miller isn't a widely recognised figure in England. 

It’s equally surprising that the former Club Cricket Conference player hasn’t be recognised more in county cricket as well. 

Miller has held head coach positions at  Jamaica Tallawahs, St Kitts & Nevis Patriots (CPL) and was also Head for Vancouver Knights in the Canadian Global T20.

He spent this summer as assistant coach to Andy Flower at the St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), the latest assignment on a career that has taken him around the world.

Apart from a short stint as a support coach at Essex, though, there has been precious little opportunity for him to demonstrate his coaching credentials on home soil.

After a summer which has seen race and ethnicity rarely far from the headlines, Miller’s story is one that is both timely and pertinent – his progression overseas, meanwhile, is a demonstration of the impact that the CCC cricket programme can have on both coaches and players.

With the warm glow of a CPL final appearance and also England’s triumph at last summer’s World Cup still sustaining him, Miller isn’t ruing finding himself on the outside looking in when it comes to domestic cricket.

Instead, he’s looking forward to his next challenge, whenever and wherever it presents itself, safe in the knowledge that his CV is looking better and better with each passing year.

“I had done a bit of work with Chris Silverwood in the past and he introduced me to Trevor Bayliss,” he says. “A couple of years ago, Alastair Cook asked me to give him a hand with some throws when he was preparing for the series against Pakistan.

“Since then some of the England boys took a liking to the way I operate, so they asked me back to help at the World Cup, which was unbelievable. It was great to be a part of that. It’s not easy to get those kinds of opportunities, so just to be around those guys was really rewarding.”

Having gone into coaching early in his career, Miller is one of a select band of coaches who have carved out a career in the game without having played at the highest level.

He did, though, represent the CCC XI on numerous occasions, with his involvement proving a crucial element of his on-pitch education. It also taught him a thing or two about poker while on tour with the side.

“For me, the CCC was a really good opportunity to play some competitive cricket – it was the closest I could get to playing a high standard of cricket,” he says. “I’ve been on a few tours with them too, which was great fun. I thought I was a poker player too until Min Patel showed me otherwise.

“I have stuck to coaching, rather than cards, ever since.”

The experience he has gained in the Caribbean and in South Africa means Miller is a man in demand overseas.

He was assistant coach to the Jozi Stars side that won the inaugural Mzansi Super League in 2018 and was named at the head coach of the side the following year.

The St Lucia side he coached alongside Andy Flower also reached the final of this summer’s CPL – eventually losing out to the Trinbago Knight Riders by eight wickets in Tarouba.

His record is impressive but, to date at least, it hasn’t turned heads in England.

“I’ve been asked this question a lot but look if you really look around, the county jobs don’t come around that regularly,” he says. “It would be nice to be involved at some point, at some level.

“It’s a tricky one to moan about when you’ve had so many other great opportunities around the globe but it would be nice, at some point, to recognise that I’ve done a lot and been successful.

“The Hundred ball league might happen in 2021, it would be nice to an opportunity in if it does. But on the flip side, it’s tricky to get jobs in county cricket, in these uncertain times.

“I will continue to dig away abroad but this is my home, this is where I’ve lived for the last 21 years and this is where I’ve spent almost 60% of my life. If something comes up then I would love someone to come and talk to me, that’s all I’ve ever asked, I don’t expect any more than that.”

Given his track record overseas, it does seem extraordinary that the opportunity is yet to present itself. A lack of coaches and also players from the African Caribbean community means that any breakthrough would be a huge step forward, particularly at a time when the ECB has spoken openly about its wish for the sport in this country to become more ethnically diverse.

For the moment, though, Miller remains the quiet trailblazer.