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By Bharath Ramaraj
New Zealand’s Kyle Mills with his rather prosaic skills of unremitting control and shaping the ball just enough either way won’t hit too many headlines or win plaudits for his performance. But after playing 163 One-Day internationals (ODIs,) his record matches with anyone. A stackful of wickets that now stands at 232 and at an average of 26.75 is an enviable record indeed.
The untiring seamer’s old fashioned methods though, perhaps give an inkling that the batsmen can send the ball whirling towards the stands at will. For the first ODI at Napier against India, he was dropped, as Adam Milne was picked ahead of him. Yes, Milne’s extra burst of pace came in handy in pushing Indian batsmen back. Even for the third ODI being played at Auckland, New Zealand have gone for Hamish Bennett’s extra yard of pace ahead of Mills. Mills, known as the quintessential team-man certainly must have in some ways felt hard done by.
It has to be said that Mills didn’t reach glorious heights in the just concluded series against the West Indies, but every cricketer is bound to have a bad game or two on the road. His ultra-consistency can be seen by the fact that he hasn’t dropped out of top 20 in ODI rankings for a longtime now. Here is one seamer who has slogged and sweated his way to success and deserves more.
It wasn’t all that long ago when Mills was one of the key performers for the Kiwis in their historic ODI series win in South Africa. He didn’t just take wickets at timely intervals, but his invaluable contribution with the willow at Paarl in the first game on a track that had variable bounce helped New Zealand to beat South Africa in a see-saw battle. With a single-minded focus of taking New Zealand to a victory, he faced up to the gargantuan challenge of Dale Steyn with guts and gumption and gave valuable support to James Franklin.
In the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 on a seaming deck at Cardiff, Mills yet again stepped up to the plate by bowling with parsimonious control and troubling, especially left-handers by slanting it across them with the seam pointing more towards first slip. However, his sprightly performance in the rain curtailed game against England at Cardiff wasn’t enough to take New Zealand to a victory. Mills’s yeoman services to the team was finally rewarded when he was made the stand-in captain during Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) in Bangladesh and a short tour of Sri Lanka last year.
It has been more than a decade since Kyle Mills made his ODI debut with the mercury levels mercilessly rising to almost intolerable levels at Sharjah in 2002. Ever since then, he has struck to the old adage of bowling with fine control and generating enough movement either way to chug along with fine performances in the ODI arena. Despite the seasoned veteran losing his place in the side to younger pacers who bowl with an extra yard of pace for the series against India, one can be rest assured that Mills will continue to knock at the doors of New Zealand think-tank.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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