Will Stokes and Mills live up to expectations at the 2017 IPL?
On February 20, 2017, people from all over the world were glued to their screens to find out the results of the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction.
With all eight IPL franchises ready to splash the cash on players that they believed would benefit their ultimate goal of being crowned champions, there was no doubt that certain high-profile players would attract huge bids.
But, many people were not ready for what was in store for the England duo of Ben Stokes and Tymal Mills.
The pair broke records and ended up being the top two most expensive purchases at the auction, which was stocked to the brim with talented cricketers from all parts of the globe.
Players receiving substantial bids is nothing new in the IPL, but it must be pointed out that in the past, some of the franchises that made major investments ended up regretting it.
Two prime examples are Dinesh Karthik and Yuvraj Singh. Karthik was bought for INR 12.5 crore (£1.54 million) in the 2014 IPL auction, but he flopped spectacularly as he only managed to muster 325 runs at an average of 23.21 in 14 matches.
In the same year, the Royal Challengers Bangalore brought Yuvraj into their team following a winning bid of INR 14 crore (£1.72 million). But, little did they know that their massive investment would go belly up as the veteran Indian all-rounder scored 376 in 14 matches at an average of 34.18 and took five wickets at an average of 37.40 and an economy rate of 8.25.
Coming back to Stokes, the 25-year-old was at the centre of a bidding war between numerous franchises at the auction in Bangalore. With a base price of INR 2 crore (£148,147), he was among the elite group of players up for grabs.
For a majority of the time, the Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils went back and forth in an attempt to sign the all-rounder. But, once the Daredevils bid INR 10.5 crore (£1.29 million), the Sunrisers Hyderabad piped up and entered the fray.
With the Mumbai Indians having lost interest, the Rising Pune Supergiants came in late and bid 13.5 crore (£1.66 million). After one last desperate bid of 14 crore (£1.72 million) by the Sunrisers, the Supergiants secured the services of the 25-year-old for an eye-popping amount of INR 14.5 crore (£1.79 million).
Stokes drew the highest price for an overseas player in the history of the IPL auction and was understandably shocked upon hearing the news.
"To put it into words is still quite hard," he had said. "Exciting is probably the best word to use. I find it quite hard to talk about. I don't know how to talk about stuff like that. It's one of those things that makes me a little bit awkward."
With the Supergiants having invested a record-breaking amount in Stokes, there will no doubt be a lot of pressure on him to get the job done with both bat and ball.
While Stokes has shown just how destructive he can be when he made a career-best 258 against South Africa in January last year, there have also been times when he has failed to deliver. One just has to cast their mind back to the final of the World Twenty20 in 2016, where Stokes failed to defend 19 runs against the West Indies in the final over of the match. The reason for that was Carlos Brathwaite, who launched Stokes for four successive sixes to lead the men from the Caribbean to an incredible come-from-behind win.
With this in mind, it must be asked whether Stokes will live up to expectations following all the hype around him at the auction. For me personally, it looks promising as he has so much to offer. Yes, his batting and bowling will be crucial, but his fiery personality is similar to that of India and Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli. This could prove invaluable as it could possibly provide the spark that the Supergiants need to propel them to IPL glory.
Moving on to Mills, the England pace bowler only had a base price of INR 50 lakh (£61,728), but what ensued when his name came up was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
The 24-year-old hit the jackpot as he became a millionaire overnight after going to the Royal Challengers Bangalore for INR 12 crore(£1.48 million).
Unlike Stokes, Mills only made his international debut in 2016. But, if we were to go back in time another year to 2015, Mills admitted that he thought he would never be able to play cricket again as a congenital back condition forced him to retire from first-class cricket and transformed him into a Twenty20 specialist.
While Mills’ story is a classic rags-to-riches one, his hard work, dedication and never-give-up attitude in a very dark time of his career must be applauded.
Despite this, the Royal Challengers Bangalore may have overpaid for the lethally quick left-arm seamer and chances are that while he will take some wickets, he is also going to concede a lot of runs, so much so that it may end up being a problem for his team in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, Mills is a very talented cricketer, but his lack of international experience and exposure to bowling to other high-profile players could come back to haunt him and the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the upcoming edition of the IPL.