England fast bowler Tymal Mills says he is still coming to terms with becoming a millionaire cricketer after IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore paid $1.8m for his services at this week’s auction.
It is a remarkable turn of events for Mills, who two years ago was forced to pursue a career as a freelance T20 cricketer due to a congenital back injury.
The 24-year-old feared for his life when the spinal condition took grip, doctors testing Mills for multiple sclerosis as the then 22-year-old faced the prospect of cruel early retirement from all forms before being given the green light to forge ahead as a T20 globetrotter.
He hasn’t looked back since and over the past seven months he has made his England T20I debut and played franchise cricket in New Zealand, Bangladesh, Australia and, now, the UAE in the Pakistan Super League.
For all of those leagues, Mills went in with low base prices as part of a wider plan to give himself visibility, a move that has obviously paid off.
“All the gigs I’ve played for this winter, I’ve gone in at pretty minimal price, just to try and get my face out there, play cricket and get my profile up,” Mills told Sport360 at his PSL team Quetta Gladiators’ training in Dubai.
And it had the desired effect, a life-changing moment coming this week when Mills’ hard work and rapid improvement in the format during that time saw him net the bumper IPL contract with RCB after a frantic bidding war for his services.
Two days on, it still hasn’t quite sunk in for Mills.
“It’s surreal, I never expected to go for that much,” he said. “I came in with a pretty low base price, I just wanted to get picked up and to go for that much money is well beyond any expectations I could ever have had.
“The guys keep joking with me and having a bit of banter with me but until the money is in your account it’s not real, is it. It’s still a good few weeks away, I’ve still got this tournament to play out here. I’ve enjoyed all the nice messages I’ve received and I can’t complain.”
And he’s certainly not one to complain.
For all the hardship of the past two years, no-one would begrudge Mills his success and his ability to bowl 90-plus mph is an asset franchises the world over are warming to if they haven’t already.
Having reached the depths of 2015, to now reap such rewards is testament to Mills’ character and the humility he exudes is evident.
“I think us cricketers we often do take it for granted,” said Mills. “You know, flying business class flights, just for example, you take that for granted and they’re a lot of money.
“Every so often we have to try and remember how lucky we are and just enjoy that I’m still able to play cricket and hopefully things will continue to go up.”
Mills’ deal with RCB was headline news and his Quetta team-mate Kevin Pietersen described it as a “slap in the face for Test cricket” on Twitter.
According to Mills, it was an unfortunate phrase taken the wrong way.
“They see whatever Kev writes and assume that he’s being negative. If you see the tweets afterwards he was complimentary of myself,” added Mills.
“The language is what it is, I’m not sure ‘a slap in the face’ is right but depending on how you look at it, obviously I only play T20 cricket and don’t spend days in the field like a lot of the boys do now but that’s just kind of the way things have worked out.”
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