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Smaller price tag, big ambitions - Tymal Mills set for second IPL crack

Fast bowler "can't wait" to be involved again after Jayawardene link leads to Mumbai Indians call

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
14-Feb-2022
Tymal Mills enjoyed a resurgent 2021 culminating in a role for England at the T20 World Cup  •  Francois Nel/Getty Images

Tymal Mills enjoyed a resurgent 2021 culminating in a role for England at the T20 World Cup  •  Francois Nel/Getty Images

A re-opened stress fracture meant that Tymal Mills was wearing a back brace for the third consecutive month at the time of the last IPL auction. At the time, it would have seemed a brave call to suggest he would add to the five appearances he had made in the competition - all for Royal Challengers Bangalore as a INR 12.5 crore (£ 1.4 million) signing back in 2017.
Twelve months later, Mills stood outside a Greggs bakery in York city centre watching the auction unfold via a stream on his phone, feeling quietly confident that he would be picked up after a stellar run of form bowling his left-arm pace and back-of-the-hand slower balls at the death. "I'm up here seeing some friends for a few days and we were in the town centre - we'd just had breakfast and I got the stream up," Mills told ESPNcricinfo. "It was a different setting to most people, for sure."
Some franchises had registered their interest in signing Mills as a replacement for the second half of the 2021 season, only to find out that his decision not to register for the auction due to injury rendered him unavailable. And this year, his confidence proved well-founded, as Mumbai Indians saw off competition from Sunrisers Hyderabad and Punjab Kings to sign him for INR 1.5 crore (£ 147,000).
"I knew that they were interested," he said. "Mahela [Jayawardene, Mumbai's head coach] sent me a text saying that they were nominating me as part of the accelerated process, and checking in to make sure I was fit and well. That settled the nerves a little bit but you never know, do you?
"I was a bit nervous watching it unfold, so it was obviously nice to get that first bid in and then you're waiting to see where you're going to end up. It's great to be back with Mahela, and obviously Mumbai are a storied franchise. Everyone that's played for them speaks really highly of how they look after their players so I can't wait to get out there."
Mills' T20 career has been revived this year thanks to a prolonged period of fitness, with a thigh strain that cut his World Cup short the only major exception. He played every game for Southern Brave in the Hundred - with Jayawardene as head coach - and starred for Sussex, and has backed up an excellent summer with a solid winter, winning the Abu Dhabi T10 and the Big Bash between England commitments.
Speaking after the auction, Jayawardene said: "Tymal was too fast when he started off and had injuries. He had a brilliant Hundred and was one of the standouts. He is a death overs specialist but can bowl in all phases. He is a fantastic guy, hardworking and a passionate bowler and will bring that character to the unit. I am looking forward to him being part of Mumbai."
Mills' only experience of the IPL to date was a disappointing one. His returns for RCB were not disastrous - an economy rate of 8.57 and five wickets in as many games - but he failed to deliver on the hype generated by a hefty price tag, and an injury ultimately cut his stint short.
"I went for a lot of money back then and ultimately didn't live up to that," he said. "I suffered a bit of an injury and I wasn't able to have a real good go at it. I've been desperate to go back ever since and haven't had any chances come my way, but I've had a really good last eight or ten months and managed to string a lot of games together. Hopefully, I can have a better go of it this time around.
"You never want to go for less money - anyone that says they do is probably lying - but I set a relatively low base price [INR 1 crore/£ 100,000] because I just want to get out there and play, really. I wanted to set myself a price where I was a bit more attractive and I'm not too worried about the money side of it: if you do well and you're part of a successful team, that takes care of itself."
The web of connections that Mills has formed from his time as a T20 globetrotter means that there are several familiar faces in Mumbai's squad - including Jasprit Bumrah, whom he spoke to during the World Cup when England and India were sharing the same hotel.
Jofra Archer, his Sussex team-mate, is another name that stands out and while he is not expected to play any part in the 2022 season as he continues his rehab from an elbow injury, Mills is hopeful that they will be part of the same Mumbai side at some stage in the future.
"I played with Mahela back at Sussex a few years ago and obviously I know Jofra really well," he said. "I played with Tim David in the Hundred, with Riley Meredith at Hobart and with Polly [Kieron Pollard] at [Peshawar] Zalmi in the PSL. Those types of things only help when teams are at the auction table - that bit of familiarity.
"I know Jof's turning his arm over again. I don't know what his exact plan is for the rest of the year but we've been texting each other already and it's great to be playing with a lot of familiar faces. Fingers crossed, Jof's elbow is behind him and he's getting back to playing cricket before long.
"I've got a little block of time at home now to spend some time with my family and I'll be bowling the week after next so have a good little training block: I should be mentally and physically refreshed and ready for a good couple of months. I can't wait to get out to India - hopefully crowds are allowed in and I can really soak in the atmosphere."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98