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Post injury rehab, Milne targets red-ball comeback

Adam Milne was due to return to white-ball cricket with a warm-up game against the South Africans, but the match was washed out Getty Images

Adam Milne can't bear the thought of not being able to bowl quickly. The 24-year-old New Zealand fast bowler is coming to the end of his latest injury rehabilitation and is desperate to play a game of cricket: something he has been unable to do for nearly a year.

Milne hasn't played for New Zealand since the World T20 in India, and his last competitive outing was at last year's IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore before a hamstring injury ruled him out of the tournament. That followed missing the 2015 IPL due to the heel problem which ended his World Cup at the quarter-final stage.

The hamstring injury was followed by elbow surgery - the latter being the most concerning problem for Milne as it was the second time he had needed it operated on - and then he hurt his side while bowling in a New Zealand net session late last year.

But after all that, he is almost ready to hurl the ball down again at upwards of 140kph. He doesn't know any other way.

"If I didn't have that, I'd take a look at cricket. I'd still want to play, but it would be tough knowing that you can't bowl quick. Once you have that you want to use it all the time. I still feel I can ramp it up when I want to," he told ESPNcricinfo in Wellington after training with the New Zealand one-day squad. "It takes a while to get the rhythm and the feeling back, but I know if I want to turn it up, it's in there."

Milne could have been forgiven for having doubts about his profession, but he has learned to love the hard graft that comes with having to bounce back from a string of injuries.

"It's been very frustrating, I've had a bit of a tough time of it so looking at coming out the end of it is pretty exciting. There's always a little bit of doubt, but I actually enjoy the training, rehab and getting the strength back," he said. "I take a lot of pride in my fitness levels so once I get into a plan of coming back I quite enjoy the process. I think if I didn't have I would probably struggle quite a lot mentally."

Milne has worked his way from almost a standing start, a three-step run-up, and is now coming in off the full length. However, there is only so much you can prove in net sessions.

His ODI record does not jump out - 31 wickets at 40.61 - but New Zealand want to make the most of someone with his raw pace. Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, said he remains in contention for the Champions Trophy although needs to find time in the middle.

He was due to play for a New Zealand XI against the South Africans in their T20 warm-up match but that was washed out and now, with domestic one-day cricket having now finished for the season, he is targeting four-day Plunket Shield cricket before returning to the IPL.

"It's always good to be told you are in the frame. It's been hard, I've been out of international cricket since the World T20, so I'm happy that they'd consider me going forward," he said. "I know in myself that I have the confidence that I've played at this level over a few years."

"Hopefully I'll play a few of the four-day games, in what capacity in terms of overs I'm not sure but I definitely want to play. I don't want to restrict myself and say I won't play until the IPL because that is a bonus."

Milne has not played a first-class match since December 2015, but even in the midst of his run of injuries it has never crossed his mind to focus purely on white-ball cricket. He has hopes firmly set on earning a Test cap.

"I can understand why players give up red-ball cricket, it is tough on the body, but I feel with my action and the way I bowl I could play a four-day game or a Test match and go through different gears. As a youngster, I've always wanted to play Test cricket and to be able to pull on a New Zealand Test cap would be a special moment for myself and my family."

For now, though, he'll just look forward to playing a match of any sort again.