Injuries have parched him of steady opportunities but he has been able play more consistently since the start of the 2020-21 BBL
Milne played only 12 professional games in a two-year period between November 2018 and December 2020, twice undergoing surgery on his left ankle, but has been able to string games together more consistently since the start of the 2020-21 Big Bash League and has been the standout fast bowler in the group stages of the ongoing Hundred to date, playing for the table-topping Birmingham Phoenix.
New Zealand are expected to confirm squads for those tours at the start of next week, though it is unclear at this stage whether Milne and the other players with IPL deals will be part of them. Milne confirmed he is expecting to fly to the UAE to fulfil his contract with the Mumbai Indians where he will link back up with Shane Bond, Mumbai’s assistant coach and his Sydney Thunder head coach and mentor.
“I’d obviously love to play more for New Zealand,” Milne told ESPNcricinfo. “I’ve had a lot of injuries over the last three years which has stopped me playing any cricket at all really, and you can’t play for New Zealand if you’re not playing any domestic cricket.
“It’s nice to be playing well over here, and I feel like out of all of the formats, I’ve got a really good record in T20. I know this is slightly different with the 100-ball format, but I’d obviously really like to be part of that World Cup team and there has been a little bit of communication behind the scenes back home.
“The hardest thing for a fast bowler is stringing a whole period of cricket together. It’s all been short-format for me, so it’s not as taxing as longer forms, but it’s been nice to be able to play consistently and gain a bit of trust in the body and get a bit of rhythm in my bowling. When you’re coming in and out, you’re not quite getting that rhythm, so it’s been nice to keep that going.”
Milne’s preparation for the Hundred was not ideal. He was due to play six games for Kent in the group stages of the Vitality Blast but one was washed out and he was forced to self-isolate for 10 days during the final two as a close contact of a team-mate who had contracted Covid-19.
But he has still managed to hit the ground running over the last two weeks. He is the competition’s fourth-highest wicket-taker with seven in his first five appearances, and has the best economy rate (1.02 runs conceded per ball) out of any seamer. He has also hit speeds of 93mph/149kph – only Marchant de Lange has bowled a fast ball in the tournament – and produced one of its first viral moments with an outrageous caught-and-bowled to dismiss Ravi Bopara.
“Obviously part of my role is to bowl fast,” he said. “As long as I can perform, take wickets and keep that economy rate low, I’m happy. I wouldn’t say the pace is irrelevant because it’s part and parcel of my job, but I’m not steaming in trying to bowl 100mph (161kph) because I’d probably rip my ankle off.
“The results have been really good. I’ve felt like over the last 6-12 months that I’ve been bowling well and – going back to the Big Bash – wasn’t taking the wickets I would have liked, so it’s nice to chip in with a few here, and keeping that economy low in these sorts of games is obviously pretty important.
“It was a mixed start for us: we didn’t perform overly greatly on that spinning wicket in Manchester and the Southern Brave game felt like it could have gone either way. But I think we’re in a good position with a strong team, good depth and a lot of exciting young players so let’s hope we can get on a bit of a roll.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98