How Tymal Mills overcame a career-threatening injury

At 22, the tearaway fast bowler was told that he suffered from a narrow spinal cord. He was warned that bowling extended spells could cause serious long-term damage.

Given the high price tag, Tymal Mills is sure to face heightened scrutiny in IPL 10.   -  Sudhakara Jain

When Tymal Mills was first diagnosed with a career-threatening congenital back injury two years ago, he was devastated. It has since turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

At 22, the tearaway fast bowler was told that he suffered from a narrow spinal cord. He was warned that bowling extended spells could cause serious long-term damage.

“I had all my tests done, and sat down with the doctors and the chief executives of the Sussex team. Retirement was one of the options I had to consider. To hear that at 22 wasn’t nice at all. Another option was to play only T20 cricket, as the injury occurred only when I bowled 14-15 overs in a day,” Mills says, in a media interaction here on Friday.

Mills explains that his back condition does not affect his off-the-field routines. “It gives me no problems in terms of my day-to-day life. I don’t wake up in the morning in pain. I take medication every day, and I’ve adjusted my gym schedule. It flares up only when I have to take on long spells. So even at nets, I don't usually bowl more than 24 balls," he says.

The decision to stick to short bursts has paid off. Apart from representing England in international T20 matches, Mills has plied his trade in the Big Bash League, Pakistan Super League and Bangladesh Premier League.

His most recent call-up, however, has seen him hit the jackpot. At the IPL auction held earlier this year, Royal Challengers Bangalore bought his services for ₹12 crore. Given the high price tag, and the fact that he is viewed as a replacement for highly-rated Australian quick Mitchell Starc, Mills is sure to face heightened scrutiny.

"If I put pressure on myself on account of the auction price, I'm setting myself up to fail. The T20 format is full of ups and downs. You can take four for 10 in one match and none for 50 in the next. Also, I will be playing half the games here at Chinnaswamy Stadium, where batsmen score runs for fun. The average team score is around 200 here. I have to temper my expectations,” he says.

Given how close he came to giving up the sport altogether, Mills understands that it is important to stop and smell the roses. “As a professional cricketer, I’ve gotten to meet so many cool people from all over the world. Not many people - like my friends back home, for example - get to do that. We fly around in business class flights. We sometimes forget how lucky we are,” he says.

Mills is keen to use his IPL purse to buy his mother a house, but this will have to wait a little while longer. "I haven't purchased the home because I haven't been paid by RCB yet!," he laughs.