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McMillan can’t get over the ‘22 off one ball’ heartbreak

Aditya Iyer

Posted: Jan 11, 2011 at 0156 hrs IST

Cape town: Immortalised by the wide-angled lens of cricket’s greatest photographer Patrick Eagar, the image of the electronic scoreboard reading, “22 runs, 1 ball,” remains a story of heart-break for cricket fans around the world. Captured at the SCG during the 1992 World Cup semi-finals, Eagar’s photograph forms the backdrop of the least expected front porch — Brian McMillan’s house. For South Africa’s former all-rounder, the moment will always remain his ultimate scar tissue.

“I see it everyday as I walk out of the house to go to work,” McMillan says with a smug smile. Life has moved on and so has the player nicknamed Big Mac, but the darkest hour linger on. A long stare, and he goes down memory lane.

Chasing 253 for victory to meet Pakistan in the final of the 1992 World Cup, the hopes of a fragile nation rested on his square shoulders. McMillan’s unbeaten 21 did really well to bring down the equation to 22 runs from 13 balls, till Duckworth Lewis played their first of many tricks on SA.

“The big bowler of that day was Daffy (Philip DeFreitas), he was England’s kingpin. We took 20 runs of his last over, which was a bonus. Dave (Richardson) and I smashed the ball around off Chris Lewis and a make-shift fifth bowler, and the game was on. When it came to 22 off 13, we knew we were going to make it. After that is wet history,” McMillan says, remembering the events like it was yesterday.

D/L, along with the organisers and the local broadcasters, had come up a bizarre rule to deal with rain interruptions — the reduction in the target was to be proportionate to the lowest scoring overs of the side batting first. “We knew the rules before the tournament started, but it doesn’t make it any better. It was and still remains a bit of a con. Those were the rules and you live by it.”

Pointing at the adjacent frame, one where England skipper Graham Gooch shakes his bucket-like hands with an embarrassed look on his face, McMillan says: “The irony of the whole thing is Allan Lamb, a South African, advised Gooch to go off because it was going to rain, otherwise Gooch was ready to play on. When we walked off, both Gooch and Ian Botham came up to me and said, ‘If we were to win, we didn’t want to win it this way; they looked embarrassed. I got to give them credit for that. Not a lot of teams would,” McMillan adds.

Does he ever think of what could have been? “Everyday. If we had met Pakistan in the final, we would have won. We had beaten them three times before that and it was a mental thing, they couldn’t play against us — we would’ve smashed them,” McMillan adds.

While McMillan was South Africa’s best all-rounder after their return to the international fold, the World Cup miss still remains his greatest loss. He achieved quite a bit with both bat and ball, but considering he was in a team with Allan Donald, Fanie de Villiers, Brett Schultz and Shaun Pollock, McMillan never picked up a five-fors in any of his 38 Tests and 78 ODIs.

“I would come in the middle overs and work my skills in a holding role. Sometimes I was lucky to get three or four wickets, but Allan and Fanie would return to clean up the tail. I even missed about 14 hundreds because I was invariably batting with Donald and Schultz.In hindsight, I played in a good era and that is good enough or me,” he adds.

Miffed with the arrival of the quota system, McMillan retired in 1998, before his entrepreneurial skills (and an MBA) helped the former Afrikaans and mathematics school teacher find his own niche —an office automation company.

So what was his greatest memory in cricket? “Naming Venkatapathy Raju ‘Muscles’ was one of them. Muscles Raju, he was my favourite guys in cricket. And Muscles labeled me Rhino. But after he saw a Tendulkar knock, he changed that to Big Rhino for was Tendulkar was baptized Small Rhino by him. I haven’t seen him for a while, do you have a picture? It could go up the front porch.”

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