Obsession with Milne's speed may cost us all

NEED FOR SPEED: Adam Milne was handed a New Zealand Cricket contract today and wants more game time for the Black Caps.
NEED FOR SPEED: Adam Milne was handed a New Zealand Cricket contract today and wants more game time for the Black Caps.

Cricket is driven by numbers.

Averages, strike rates, runs per over, conversion rate, fifties, hundreds, required run rates, balls remaining, runs to win. Oh my goodness, we could go on and on.

However, in the past five years, the New Zealand cricket public has become obsessed with one number in particular – 150kmh.

That is the figure that defines a bowler as being "fast" rather than "fast medium".

Ever since Shane Bond, the first Kiwi to break the 150 barrier, called time on his career in 2009, Black Cap fans have been clamouring for another speedster to surface.

And now he has.

Adam Milne has all the physical attributes to be a great fast bowler.

He has height, long arms, is athletic and attacks the bowling crease without fear.

At 21 years old there is no doubt he is a great prospect, who is already standing out in the Twenty20s and also, though to a lesser degree, at one-day level.

However, after he cracked the 150kmh mark during the first Twenty20 international against the West Indies last Saturday night, there have been calls to put him in the test team to face India.

This is just another example of how the obsession of finding "the next Shane Bond" is clouding people's judgment.

To begin with, who would you drop from a bowling attack that just helped the Blacks Caps to their first test series win over opposition other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh since the 2005/2006 season?

Then there are the standout bowlers from the Plunket Shield this season.

What message are you sending Canterbury's Hamish Bennett (24 wickets at an average of 23.12 and strike rake of 41) and Wellington's Andy McKay (21 wickets at 31.76, strike rate 53.1) if you put a player who's collected just eight wickets at an average 41.75 and a strike rate of 72 in ahead of them?

Also why put this young man up against arguably the most dangerous batting lineup in the world.

However, to illustrate what I believe is the most significant reason for not rushing Milne into the test team, look no further than the man who mentors him.

Shane Bond played just 18 tests in his outstanding career, sitting out long periods due to injuries largely caused by the physical intensity of fast bowling. .

Milne has already had to deal with a stress fracture in his left tibia (any injury preceded by the word "stress" is not good for a fast bowler) and missed the South African series with a recurrence of an Achilles tendon injury.

The best international playing environment for Milne is in the Twenty20 and ODI teams, but may I suggest that the Black Caps take a leaf out of Steve Hansen's book and keep Milne around the test match setup as an apprentice.

The goal for Milne should be to prepare him for a long test match career.

That process should be undertaken over two years, allowing this talented young man time to properly condition himself for the mental and physical rigours that test match cricket presents.

If he is treated with patience, we will all be rewarded with Milne as the spearhead of the Black Caps test attack for (at least) the next 10 years.

Nigel Yalden is a Waikato-based sports commentator for Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport 

Waikato Times