Australia leg-spinner Adam Zampa has credited team-mate Glenn Maxwell, and a stint of club cricket in England, with helping him reclaim his spot in the ODI side, in time for the 2019 World Cup.
Zampa is set to be Australia’s frontline spinner at the World Cup: a far cry from where he was a year ago, when the re-emergence of Ashton Agar had pushed him out of the side. Now, he is once again showing the kind of promise that had made him the world’s most successful bowler in his rookie year, when he began his international career with 30 wickets in 19 matches to top the ODI wicket charts for 2016.
“I was the leading wicket-taker in the world in the first year of my career,” Zampa said. “As a young guy, you can probably take it for granted a little bit and think the way you’re doing things is the way to go, and if you keep doing things this way, it’s going to turn around.
“I found that it’s not the way it works, unfortunately. I was disappointed when I was out, but it actually was really good for me.”
After a fruitful first 18 months, Zampa was jolted by what he termed as a ‘wake-up call’, when he was dropped after just one ODI in India in 2017. He ended up playing the final two games of the five-match series, owing to Agar’s broken finger, but finished with unflattering numbers, highlighted by an average of 47 and an economy rate of close to seven.
He was subsequently left out of the tour of England in 2018, when the selectors went with Agar as the sole spinner, and ended up featuring in only six out of the 13 ODIs Australia played last year.
The snub gave him a chance to sort out his game in England, however, and he ended up playing for Brentwood Cricket Club, with the freedom to express himself on a smaller stage. “That [club cricket] was really good for me because you’re the overseas player there,” he said. “There’s a lot of expectation for you there. Just doing my own thing for a few months was really good for me.”
Two games against South Africa in late 2018, and a call-up for the India tour earlier this year, gave him a new lease of life, but it wasn’t until he had a conversation with Maxwell that Zampa got his confidence back. Maxwell had watched Zampa closely during the Big Bash League, where he was Zampa’s captain as he snared 14 wickets for the Melbourne Stars – second only to Dwayne Bravo.
Zampa wound up becoming the most successful spinner in the India ODIs, with 11 wickets in five games, and famously dismissed Virat Kohli three times in seven limited-overs outings. He followed it up by capturing seven wickets in five games against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in March.
“I actually didn’t feel like I was at my best for the first three games,” Zampa said. “Bowling to someone like Virat [Kohli] – and he’s hitting the ball in all areas – you definitely feel like you’re under pressure. It was Maxi [Maxwell] who had a word to me and said, ‘good on you for getting wickets, but you’re probably not at your best. What have you changed from the Big Bash?’
“It was just preparation and a few things where I was just overcomplicating it. I simplified it, so that’s what I’m really focusing on.”