Explosive bowling talent needs careful handling

Last updated 13:00 16/01/2014

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New Zealand Cricket has a precious commodity at its fingertips.

In Adam Milne, the Black Caps potentially have access to one of cricket's rarer assets - a pace bowler capable of delivering genuine, intimidating heat at an international level.

It's not enough for a bowler to simply possess raw pace. It needs to be controlled, and if it's also physically menacing, then so much the better.

Former Aussie quick Shaun Tait vanished from the international scene almost as quickly as he arrived, without fulfilling any of his anticipated potential. He lacked the control, and therefore the necessary impact.

Left-armer Mitchell Johnson was arguably the most significant point of difference in Australia's recent 5-0 Ashes sweep over England. Named player of the series, Johnson consistently hovered around the 150kmh mark and instilled a genuine sense of dread among England's gun-shy batsmen. He revelled in their discomfort, his confidence growing exponentially throughout the series as skipper Michael Clarke's astute management of his bowling attack ensured Johnson remained primed and lethal.

But even Johnson had to return from temporary exile, his control and confidence deserting him throughout a three-year period that saw a host of younger speedsters leapfrog him in the rankings.

He wasn't even part of the previous five-test series in England, and wouldn't have made the squad for the return series in Australia had various other bowlers, notably Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson, been fit for duty. So Johnson returned, essentially by default, to eventually claim a series-winning 37 wickets at 13.97.

Now, after delivering a 153kmh thunderbolt against the West Indies last weekend, Milne is again being mentioned in the same breath as Shane Bond, Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Jeff Thomson as someone capable of breaking the 160kmh barrier.

First things first, though. With Bond as his mentor, a lot of time and effort is being invested in the 21-year-old speedster. Injury is always a major concern for young, developing bodies, particularly with the enhanced stress factor of trying to constantly bowl at express pace.

Bond is upbeat about Milne's future, and that's a positive sign. The real challenge for everyone now is determining how best to utilise his unique talent.

Provided his body remains intact and he heeds the right advice, where does his real value lie? Is it in the test arena alongside the controlled swing of Trent Boult and Tim Southee, where field restrictions are less intrusive? Or does he become part of the one-day attack, in an attempt to unsettle some world-class Indian batsmen?

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He's a rare talent who needs to be properly harnessed. And - most importantly - he has plenty of time on his side.

- The Nelson Mail

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