Craig McMillan has entertained cricket fans all over the world with his swashbuckling batting approach. GEOFF LONGLEY looks at his rollercoaster career. Combative New Zealand cricketer Craig McMillan feels his test-match debut, punctuated by highs and lows, was a pointer to the career that was to follow.
Against Australia on debut, McMillan experienced the high of scoring a half century in his maiden test innings against the world No. 1-ranked nation hoisting his half century with a six off Shane Warne. In the second innings he fell for a duck, leg before to Glenn McGrath.
From then on McMillan's fortunes were often a rollercoaster that usually mirrored the Black Caps' performances.
But there was no doubt that McMillan could hit a ball. The Mac Attack had been doing that since primary school pounding hapless bowling attacks with meaty blows as he made a swift ascent to provincial and national honours in the mid-1990s.
McMillan had that confident swagger when he strode to the crease that told the bowler he was in charge. It was something he carried over into his bowling sending down brisk medium pacers whenever he could con a captain into giving him a spell. McMillan's desire to dominate was both his strength and his weakness.
It meant at times he rode his luck and got away with it; at others it contributed to an early demise from a high-risk shot.
Such dismissals infuriated many when they saw such a talented player seemingly giving his wicket away. But McMillan was also having to fight battles with his body not just his mind. Having diabetes since 15 meant he constantly had to be conscious of his blood-sugar ratio in the middle.
Hence McMillan often had a supply of jellybeans with him out in the middle to lift his levels if he felt himself going low which was sometimes difficult to determine with the adrenalin pumping.
Playing big innings often took its toll and on occasion McMillan arrived at press conferences with his speech slurred and desperately in need of a glucose injection but unaware of his plight.
A test average hovering around 40 is highly respectable for a New Zealand cricketer and McMillan achieved this for much of his career. However, his form tapered off in 2004 and he never received another chance.
He became regarded as more of a one-day player but it appeared that was also over after a series of failures against Australia in 2005-06.
The loss of his national contract last year was a massive jolt and prompted much soul-searching before McMillan decided he was not done and dedicated himself to reclaiming a Black Caps position which appeared to have gone.
He succeeded against the odds and finished making a memorable comeback highlighted by the New Zealand's unprecedented clean sweep of Australia in the Chappell-Hadlee series this year in New Zealand.
In the second match McMillan scored an innings-changing 52 in 27 balls as the Black Caps chased down an improbable 336 to victory and then he trumped that in the final match with the fastest century by a New Zealander from 67 balls with five sixes and 13 fours as the Black Caps overhauled an even bigger target of 346, after initially being 41 for four.
He was recently to the fore at the world Twenty20 championship in South Africa where his tally of 13 sixes was the tournament record a fitting epithet to a colourful career.
- © Fairfax NZ News