In its close to 150-year history, cricket has had its fair share of stories to tell, which have gone down in folklore and been spoken about more than once. The tale of Yuvraj Singh is one such which is often recollected when his name comes to mind or in interactions.
The manner in which he played a stellar role in India’s 2011 World Cup win, despite having no idea of a rapidly growing tumor within his body and then going through a long period of treatment once finding out about it, to making a comeback to India colours in 2012 is a story that would inspire many and serve as a glowing example of how to overcome a major adversity and return back to leading a normal life.
A few other stories have emerged which have been equally heart warming and among them, the one which could be put on top of the list is that of Tymal Mills of England.
The left-arm fast bowler, who is presently participating in the Bangladesh Premier League, maybe delivering thunderbolts that unsettle the batsman, but until last year, it certainly was not something he would have imagined he would.
The promising early start
Mills began his cricketing journey in 1996 as a 14-year-old and by 1998, he had impressed the personnel at Essex enough and was drafted into the first XI of the Chelmsford-based county in 2001, as a 19-year-old. That call-up meant that Mills not just had to prioritise his cricketing career, but as a result of that had to leave his journalism course, which he was pursuing at the University of East London, midway.
He passed through the academy setup at Essex and was picked for England’s Under-19 team. Things improved further for the lad when the county handed him a debut in the 2011 season against the visiting Sri Lankan side. He bowled a total of 14 overs in the first innings, picking up the wicket of Tharanga Paranavitana and giving away 34 runs.
Video courtesy: ecb.co.uk
Despite those mediocre returns, the selectors in England saw a spark in the youngster that others didn’t and picked him in the performance programme, before adding him to the England’s Lions trip to Bangladesh later that year.
As many tearaway quicks would tell you, the most critical aspect while handling such a talent is to be able to keep him injury-free for longer durations of time and the men behind the nurturing of Mills ensured he didn't take too much of load.
The pre-Ashes impression followed by the turning point
England landed in Australia in the summer of 2013 and were served by Mitchell Johnson’s bouncers during the first Test at Brisbane. The 32-year-old steamed in almost the entire Test match and provided the visitors with a stern short-ball, for which they could hardly muster up any answers. They would go on to lose the game by a heavy margin of 381 runs and that defeat would set the tone for a pummeling like no other for the Poms.
Prior to that tour, the England team management roped in Mills into the Test squad in the home Ashes and he made an impression on the senior setup almost immediately, when in one of the spells in the nets, he hit Graeme Swann on his arm, that almost ruled him out of the tour. In hindsight, maybe Mills’s presence on the tour Down Under may have actually helped them counter Johnson in a better manner.
While that incident didn't propel him to a berth in the senior team, it surely did give rise to his stocks as a talent to look forward to in the coming years.
But as it's said, fate has its own plans in store for everyone and a year later, when Mills should have ideally been a member in the white-ball forms, he was now trying to make his way back into the game, let alone any team.
The reason: A congenital back condition, wherein his vertebrae and his spinal cord were too close to one another. As a result, Mills was advised not to go at full throttle frequently for a while until the condition subsided.
However, a year down the line, Mills has been allowed to do what he does best: Run in and bowl fast. Despite the injury, Mills consistently bowls over 90 mph and causes much trouble to batsmen.
Former captains had called for his selections into the 2016 World T20 squad, but he didn’t get the nod.
However, a few moths after the conclusion of that event, Mills made his T20I debut for England against Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl. He bowled his quota of 4 overs and conceded 22 runs without picking up a wicket in the match.
While the likes of Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan and others seem to be in a much better space to make it into the XI in white-ball cricket, but there is no doubting that Tymal Mills will surely be considered soon enough into the national scheme of things.