David Miller has attributed his success against spin this season to his changed mindset and hard work, even though, as he said himself, "never struggled against spin".
"I have never really felt like I have been a player who struggled against spin," Miller said ahead of Sunday's final against Rajasthan Royals. "But it is an area I had to improve and in the last three-four years, I have changed my mindset against spin."
Miller has an average of 96 and a strike rate of 144.36 against spin in IPL 2022. Among batters who have faced at least 130 balls of spin this season, only Jos Buttler, KL Rahul and Tilak Varma have a better average and only Buttler, Rishabh Pant and Varma have a better strike rate.
"It's about making sure, especially in T20 cricket, [that] I impose myself," he explained. "I am looking to score every ball, but when there is a bad ball, I am at least in a good position to put it away for four or six. Obviously, it then creates pressure on the bowler as opposed to the bowler settling in. That's one of the things mentally I have tried to improve."
Miller has scored 449 runs this season, his best in the IPL, topping his 446 when he was with Kings XI Punjab [now Punjab Kings] in 2014. He is eighth in the list of leading run-getters this season - second-most for Titans behind captain Hardik Pandya - and only Buttler, Quinton de Kock and Sanju Samson among the top ten have a better strike rate than his 141.19.
"It's been enjoyable in the sense that I am not in and out, in and out, and have been able to build the whole season and keep my confidence going," he said. "The environment has a big part to play in all of our performances. As a player, if you are well looked after off the field, then you feel comfortable and feel that you can be yourself.
"The last four-five years in the IPL - I had a bad season in 2016 - and since then I haven't really felt backed at all. It's the nature of the IPL in the sense that there's a lot of overseas players and only four can play. So very understandable for teams to think like that.
"I had to go back and work on my game and try and find a way to keep going. Though I felt good playing for South Africa, domestic teams in South Africa, but it's about trying to find the gap between opportunity in a team and that's what's happened this season."
"As you get older and play more cricket, you mature as a player and understand how to deal with failure and what works for you as a player. All these come with experience and I have been in the IPL for 12 years and 14 years in professional cricket"
Miller was named captain of Kings XI in 2016 and was stripped off it in the middle of the season, in which he scored 161 runs in 14 games. Since then, he has never featured in all the matches in a season, be it for Punjab or for Rajasthan Royals.
Titans have not only kept Miller in the XI, but batted him at five, where he gets time to settle in before playing his range of strokes. His composure and experience helped Titans steal a win against Chennai Super Kings in the group stage in April, when they were tottering at 48 for 4 chasing 170.
"I have been backed all through, playing all the games and it allows you as a player to settle and to really not worry about the selection, more so actually winning games," he said. "As you get older and play more cricket, you mature as a player and understand how to deal with failure and what works for you as a player.
"All these come with experience and I have been in the IPL for 12 years and 14 years in professional cricket. So I should know my game by now and I feel like I am in a place where I am enjoying taking on certain roles and challenges and loving being part of this successful team."
Miller has made a major contribution in Titans' middle-order batters - No. 5 to No. 7 - scoring 809 runs, the second-most in IPL 2022 behind Kolkata Knight Riders' tally. Titans' average of 38.27 for these positions combined is the best and Rashid Khan has also played a role in making that happen.
Among batters with at least four innings at No. 7 in this IPL, Rashid's strike rate of 227.50 is the best. Only Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, MS Dhoni and Axar Patel have more runs batting at that position than Rashid's 91.
Only once before this season had Rashid batted at No. 6 - for Sunrisers Hyderabad - having mostly walked in at No.8.
"This year I have batted a bit higher than I have been batting before. The confidence given by the coaching staff and the captain in all the players [is immense]. That's the kind of energy you need," he said. "There are more batting practice sessions for me, I am batting more than before. The belief which everyone has on me - that this guy can deliver and score crucial runs for the team. I always had the belief that I can score those 20-25 runs at the end when the team needs. But there was a bit of backing and opportunity needed as a player.
"Having David [Miller], who's in form, in the middle, making scores, makes the job of top-order easy. Nos. 4, 5 and 6 are important positions in T20 and once you have them in form, it does help to win maximum games and doesn't matter whatever the target is. They have scored without any fear, especially when you look at the game against CSK, the kind of innings David played, he showed his class."
Miller chimed in to complete the part left unsaid by Rashid. "Rashid never mentions himself. As a team, it helps he knows he's going to win the game as well if no one does it."