Planet Cricket – Milne ruffling new feathers!

Tim Wigmore looks at the stuttering career of speedster Adam Milne as the paceman embarks on another career chapter

Who’s the fastest bowler in the world? Mitchell Starc, Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins all have a claim to the title. But in the last two ICC global events, no one has bowled faster than Adam Milne.

In the 2015 World Cup, Milne was clocked at 94.9mph, just ahead of Starc. In last year’s World Twenty20, he reached 94.8mph, comfortably ahead of Wahab Riaz, the second fastest bowler.

The problem is that Milne is rarely spotted in international cricket. Like many of the world’s quickest bowlers, he is injury prone. Hamstrings, heels, elbow: Milne has injured them all.

Happily, he is now back. He returned for Central Districts at the end of the New Zealand domestic season, and then played for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL – displacing Tymal Mills, another tyro. And last week, Milne played for New Zealand in Ireland, his first international for a full 14 months.

Milne at his best is an intoxicating sight. He has a beautifully smooth run-up that explodes into the crease, where his action lends itself to shaping the ball away from right-handers. It all looks wonderfully natural. Little wonder that New Zealand’s selectors were so enamoured with his talent that Milne made his debut as an 18-year-old. There is no weapon quite like pace. Speed, as Aldous Huxley wrote, is a “strange intoxicant”.

Yet while Milne is an intoxicating sight, he has not always been a particularly effective one. Those perpetual injuries have damaged his rhythm. Too often, Milne has sprayed the ball, allowing batsmen to use his great weapon against him.

The upshot is that, over six years since Milne’s international debut, he remains defined by potential rather than performance, with an ODI average of 40.25 and his economy is 5.11.

Perhaps that will now change. Milne appears reinvigorated following his injuries, with his need for speed undimmed. “Once you have that you want to use it all the time,” he said recently. Milne bowled with relentless pace and impeccable control on his return to international cricket in Dublin.

Milne has never been glimpsed in Test cricket but he is determined that this will soon change: heartening given that his cocktail of pace and injury susceptibility seem ideally suited to specialising in T20 cricket. It is very possible that New Zealand will not unleash Milne in the Champions Trophy. While he is in the squad, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan all boast formidable pedigree as ODI pace bowlers, even if they quite lack Milne’s speed.

But if Milne is now back for good, New Zealand will not be able to resist his alluring gifts for long. And world cricket will be all the more exciting for it.

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, May 26 2017

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