Inside story of England prospect George Gartons journey from Sussex to IPL

George Garton has had a year full of ups and downs, but his impending trip to Indian Premier League to play for Royal Challengers Bangalore is the latest milestone for a hugely impressive young talent.

Back in June, the Sussex quick was called in to England 's ODI squad for their series against Sri Lanka and harboured hopes of making his international debut.

However, he did not play in any of the three games and was then robbed of the chance to feature against Pakistan when the entire squad was forced into self-isolation after a coronavirus outbreak.

Garton then played a key role for Southern Brave as they won the inaugural edition of The Hundred, picking up 10 wickets at an average of 23.00.

In the T20 Blast, Garton also impressed as he picked up 11 wickets at an average 15.81, but he was unable to help Sussex lift the trophy as they were knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual winners Kent.

The 24-year-old has now signed a new multi-year deal with the county and he will jet off to the United Arab Emirates to take part in the IPL as the only uncapped Englishman at the tournament.

Despite having some setbacks and disappointment this year, Garton has continued to get better and the chance to play in the world's premier franchise tournament alongside bonafide superstars like Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell is a remarkable opportunity.

When I interviewed Garton for Sussex back in 2018, he was not yet a regular in their plans and he failed to make a single appearance in that year's T20 Blast.

However, he was already a highly rated prospect in English cricket, having been called up as cover for an England warm-up game ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes.

At the time, Garton only had nine first-class games under his belt, but it was an important learning experience for him.

"It was a great experience all round, watching how they get ready for the Ashes both on and off the pitch, in the warm-up games and just go on about day-to-day life," he said.

"It was nice to interact with them, share experiences with them and see how they prepare for such a big occasion.

"Paul Farbrace [England's assistant coach] said a few nice words as we landed in Brisbane and I joined back up with the Lions.

"He said it was a great opportunity for me to showcase my skills to people that otherwise wouldn't have been able to come and watch county cricket or wouldn't have seen me before.

"He said that I did myself proud and just to keep progressing and keep pushing."

As a left-arm seamer who can bowl at 90mph, Garton has been compared to Australia's Mitchell Starc but, perhaps surprisingly, bowling quickly has not always come naturally to him.

"People get quite surprised when I say that at the age of 16, I had the keeper standing up and I developed my pace when I grew from 17 to 18 and 18 to 19," he said.

"Thankfully Kevin Shine [the ECB's lead fast bowling coach at the time] saw potential in me and put me on the fast bowling program which gave me a winter in the gym to learn about my body.

"Being a teenager, you grow pretty quickly and I've put on a fair bit of muscle mass and grown into my action and the pace came with that.

"I haven't always bowled fast but it is certainly nicer than having the keeper standing up!"

And cricket was not the only sport he played growing up, with Garton also enjoying rugby and hockey.

Speaking to me in 2017 Nick Creed, who was head of cricket during Garton's time at Hurstpierpoint College, said: "George was a very able sportsman.

"He played rugby to a high level at Hurst, he was a scrum-half and his hockey was very good. He quite easily could have been a national performer at hockey is what I've been told by our hockey staff. Obviously his cricket took over.

"There was something about George, he had a very competitive edge to him. That was something that you could see, as well as obviously his very strong skill set, taking him far further down the line and ultimately it has. The school is very proud of him."

Garton also admitted that he did not start "excelling at cricket" until the age of 16 and believes that playing a variety of sports gave him "a great foundation to build on" when he started focusing solely on cricket.

He added: "I love playing all sports and I would encourage everyone at school to play as many sports as they can because I think it gives you a great foundation to build on.

"Up until the age of 16 I wasn't excelling at cricket and so I was quite open. I loved playing hockey and loved playing rugby and I would say hockey and cricket were on a par, with also a bit of baseball on the side.

"When I grew a bit from 17 onwards, that is when I realised I could progress further in cricket than in hockey and that's when I put my full focus onto cricket and giving that a full go."

Having decided to focus fully on cricket, Garton made his debut for Sussex as a teenager and he has progressed through the ranks at a county which has boasted the likes of Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan and Ollie Robinson in their seam attack.

However, as a left-armer, Garton offers something different and his impending IPL experience will surely catapult him even closer to that elusive England debut.

Speaking ahead of Finals Day, Garton told reporters that he was keen to "learn as much as possible" from the competition.

"I'm expecting a lot of fun in the IPL," he said. "It's a really strong competition. I'll be trying to tap into everyone I can and learn as much as possible in a short amount of time.

"Virat is one of the icons of the game worldwide. I have not met him before but I have obviously watched him score a lot of runs.

"I am a very competitive person. I like being upfront and honest and that seems exactly how he is, so I am very excited to meet him.

"It will be brilliant to share a dressing room with him, AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Dan Christian, who is a proven T20 player around the world. They are a star-studded team and I'll be looking to tap into their knowledge."

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