Tymal Solomon Mills
August 12, 1992, Dewsbury, Yorkshire
Right hand bat
Left arm fast
Tymal Mills won an England recall for the 2021 T20 World Cup after four-and-a-half years in the international wilderness, during which time regular injuries had threatened his career. Mills, one of the most explosive fast bowlers in English cricket and an innovative thinker about the short-form game, was diagnosed with a congenital back condition in 2015 - his spinal cord and vertebrae are unusually close together and bowling fast too often can agitate his spinal cord - which consigned him to a career as a T20 specialist but he embraced life on the franchise circuit.
Mills only started playing cricket when he was 14 - and it was another two years before it became a serious part of his life - but by the age of 19 had forced his way into the Essex first team, abandoning a journalism cause at the University of East London in the process. He progressed through the academy set-up at Essex and represented England Under-19s and his Championship debut came midway through the 2011 season. By then the National Academy scouts had taken notice and that winter he was fast-tracked on to the Performance Programme, before playing for the Lions on their tour of Bangladesh.
Mills' workload was carefully managed, but he attracted considerable hype: before turning 20, he topped 90mph in front of the Sky TV cameras; then, with Mitchell Johnson terrorising England during the 2013-14 Ashes, there were calls for Mills to be fast-tracked to the Test side to provide similar firepower (he had been used for practise against left-arm bowling in the nets and almost put Graeme Swann out of the tour when her struck him on the arm). A record of six Championship wickets at 66.33 in the 2013 season counted against him and, even though development continued with the Lions in Sri Lanka, he left Essex at the end of another mediocre season in 2014 to join Sussex in the hope that it would galvanise his career so that the statistics began to meet England's hopes.
Then came the revelation that his future would be in short-form cricket, a diagnosis that he learned to handle with equanimity - even more so when he won an England debut in 2016 against Sri Lanka. Three stand-out performances for England against India led to Royal Challengers Bangalore recruiting him for £1.4m in the 2017 auction and while an injury cut his season short, he became a regular on the global T20 treadmill.
England opted to leave him out of their T20I plans over the next few years. "Due to his fitness background we probably wouldn't consider him until a World Cup year… we feel like getting a long string of games together and having a set plan could be a better plan than travelling more, maybe playing or not playing," Eoin Morgan explained in 2018. But injuries limited his chances to impress and his long-term fitness meant that he struggled to train in between playing appearances.
Things reached a head when he spent the 2020-21 winter wearing a back brace for 12 weeks following another stress fracture, but he starred in the Blast and the Hundred in 2021 by showcasing his skill at the death - batters struggled to pick his slower balls, but could not set themselves for them since he still regularly hit 90mph/145kph, and he defied conventional wisdom by favouring back-of-a-length balls rather than yorkers. Morgan had namechecked him earlier in the summer as a World Cup bolter and Jofra Archer's injury opened up a spot in the squad for him.
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