(Photo: Getty Images)
By Harvey Burgess
Ben Stokes’s £1.7m transfer at the IPL auction on Sunday may have developed into the day’s talking point, but it was another England player whose move was the most unexpected of the day.
After putting himself up for auction at the starting price of £60,000, Tymal Mills eventually sold to Royal Challengers Bangalore for 24 times that price, a life-changing £1.4m. That he was the most expensive specialist bowler in IPL history is only part of the story.
I“I can’t believe it. I can’t put into words what happened. I did not see this coming and it took a while for it to sink in,” said Mills. “I was the lowest of the base prices because I just wanted to get picked up by a team. I didn’t want to wait until July for my next cricket which would have been the NatWest T20 Blast.”
n fact, just looking at some of the other transfer fees from Sunday’s auction makes Mills’ amount even more eye-catching. Trent Boult, who has almost 200 wickets for New Zealand, sold for less than half of Mills’ price at just under £600,000. Kagiso Rabada, probably the most promising youngster in the game and with 63 Test wickets at the age of just 21, went for the same price.
The Yorkshire-born left-arm seamer has only ever played four T20 internationals, collecting three wickets in the process. However, there is one additional fact to those four matches that will undoubtedly have raised his price ten-fold – three of them came against India.
It is no surprise that RCB were the team to win the bidding war for Mills, considering their captain is also in charge of his national side. That man is Virat Kohli, who can’t help but have been impressed by Mills’ performances during the recent 2-1 T20 series victory for India at home.
The Sussex seamer may only have taken one wicket in each of the three matches, but his bowling at the death and his raw pace will have caught Kohli’s attention. Mills has been clocked at 94.4mph, and his status as a T20 specialist can’t have done him any harm.
It was two years ago that Mills found out he had a congenital back condition which restricted his bowling to such a great extent that he thought he would have to retire from the game. As it turned out, the left-armer had to give up both red-ball and one-day cricket, but was able to bowl in T20 cricket without too much trouble. Two years later, and Mills is now a specialist in the short form of the game and is certainly enjoying the lucrative contracts that have been directed his way.
Mills continued: “My back injury could have been the best thing that’s happened to me in a way because it’s changed all my focus to playing T20 and it’s probably accelerated my development in that form of the game without having to focus on the other two forms.”
Currently plying his trade in the Pakistan Super League for Quetta Gladiators, the fast bowler has an additional advantage for his side as he will be available for the entire tournament, unlike the whole other English contingent (consisting of Chris Woakes, Jason Roy, Chris Jordan, Stokes, Sam Billings and Jos Buttler).
Mills is even more likely to be a key player for RCB now that Mitchell Starc is out injured for this year’s event, which takes place from April 5th to May 21st. What’s more, Bangalore have one of the fastest pitches around which will only serve to help Mills’ style of bowling.
It is easy to forget that Mills is only 24 years of age and, given that he is now resigned to T20 cricket, will be a phenomenal asset to any side in the specialist leagues. For the next few years, he will travel the world and play effectively as a freelance cricketer, earning vast sums of money for short stints of cricket. Mills will have the chance to feature against and alongside some of the world’s best cricketers, especially in the IPL, which is the most well-paid and well-known of the T20 leagues.
He will line up alongside the likes of Kohli, Shane Watson, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle for RCB, who are aiming to win the competition for the first time. Training with the calibre of those cricketers will only speed up Mills’ progress, and given how he has risen to stardom in the last two years, who’s to say he won’t be one of the team’s most important players when the IPL begins in April.