No wonder Tymal Mills is still coming to terms with being cricket’s latest Indian Premier League millionaire given it’s less than two years since he was told he may have to quit the game because of a congenital back condition.
Back in 2015, the Sussex fast bowler was only 22 when doctors, baffled by his injury, tested for, among other things, multiple sclerosis.
At the time, Mills was planning a back-up career in sports journalism before a diagnosis - fast bowling aggravated a rare condition where his spinal cord and vertebrae are unusually close together - brought clarity and a new career path as a Twenty20 specialist.
Now 24, Mills is preparing to fly out to India next week to start life as one of the IPL’s biggest overseas imports with Royal Challengers Bangalore, where superstars such as Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB De Villiers will be among his new team-mates.
Mills admits the £1.4million deal he landed in last month’s auction will change his life forever.
Still having only played four T20 internationals for England, it was the three in India in January, where the left-armer bowled well and took three wickets in as many games, that meant a player who went into the auction with a £60,000 reserve price ended it a millionaire.
In his first interview since then, Mills said: “It’s not real yet, not until it goes into my account and I get paid.
“I’ve never come into that type of money before so I’ve got a financial advisor sorted and spoke to my accountant, and set up my bank account accordingly. It is a massive amount of money but I’ve not actually thought about it as it’s not real until it’s real, as such.
“You get 20 per cent as you arrive, then the rest in other instalments throughout the competition.”
In terms of England players, Mills’ fee is dwarfed only by the £1.7m Pune paid for Ben Stokes on the same day.
“It’s a huge amount of money,” he said. “I didn’t ever expect to go for that much in the auction, but it won’t change how I play my cricket, I’ll still go out there and back myself to do what I’ve been doing this last year.”
Mills currently lives in a flat share in Brighton but has already been looking for a suitable home on the south coast. “I need to buy a house and that will be the first thing, we’ll go from there,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about a mortgage, you’ve just got to pay bills, so if all else fails, that sets you up for the rest of your life.
“It gives you that sense of freedom moving forward and gives you a platform financially, which is nice. But I want to keep doing this for as long as I can and for as long as my body lets me do so.”
The narrative of Mills’ injury nightmare is the reason why his recent good fortune is all the more heart warming. At one point, retiring from cricket was an option advised to him by doctors. His persistence and faith, though, have now been rewarded. “Being a 22-year-old, to hear those words and to have that option was hard to hear,” he said. “It hit me hard. Some of the tests I had to rule out other things weren’t nice to have. “But I’m glad I took the option to continue playing, to give T20 a crack. It’s been an up and down couple of years, a journey that has culminated with getting this recognition in the IPL. It’s a really exciting time and I’m looking forward to getting out there.”
With such a hefty price tag comes the responsibility to live up to it. Mills is determined to do just that when the IPL starts early next month despite his financial windfall. “There will be a level of expectation and I'm aware of that,” he said. “But I’m just going to go out there and do what I’ve done and do what has got me this far.
“It is going to be tough. But the good thing about T20 cricket is that there are 14 group games and you’re always going to get an opportunity to have another game, so if you can positively affect as many games as possible then you’re doing a good job.”
As for any talk of jealousy among his team-mates at Sussex, Mills says: “I’ve mentioned a few times I don’t have any money yet, but there are a few standard jokes - ‘T will get it’- but everyone’s been brilliant and really happy for me. They know the journey I have been on and, when the T20 Blast starts again in July, I’ll be fully committed to play for Sussex.”
Mills, it had been rumoured, might also buy a house for his mum. Alas, that’s not strictly true but he still says: “She won’t take anything off me at the moment, but she’s great my mum and she’ll get looked after definitely.”
She must be incredibly proud of a son who is now living the dream so soon after coming back admirably from adversity.
Tymal Mills was speaking at a Yorkshire Tea and Chance to Shine event to launch the search for the country’s best junior journalists. To find out more go to www.chancetoshine.org/juniorjourno