If Australia’s selectors have ceased to, in the words of the chairman Trevor Hohns, “bury our heads in the sand” about the need to use spin bowling more effectively in the ODI team for this year’s World Cup, then Adam Zampa is still wary of being discarded as he seeks to rebuild confidence shaken by his on again/off again recent history with the national team.
The winning ODI series in India was the first time that Zampa had been selected for a whole series of 50-over matches since 2016, his first year in international cricket, and his return of 11 wickets at 25.81 was his most prolific in any series. Zampa had been dropped entirely from Australia’s limited-overs squads for the tours of England and Zimbabwe last year, at the end of a period in which neither Zampa nor the selectors ever looked entirely comfortable.
While Zampa has admitted to making changes both in terms of his approach to the crease and his use of variations, also working at sharpening the torque on his leg-break, he is also now benefitting from a change in philosophy from Australia’s planners, who realised at the outset of 2019 that they had become an outlier relative to the rest of the world in their reluctance to use spin bowlers consistently. Where one spinner in a squad and one or none in a team had been the norm, now Zampa and Nathan Lyon appear likely to accompany each other to England for the World Cup.
But even so, Zampa is conscious of the fact that his place in the team is perennially tenuous. “Throughout my short career I’ve found it can change really quickly,” he said in the UAE ahead of the series against Pakistan. “I started my career really well, but I’ve had some ups and downs.
“So trying to build on the momentum I have would be great – I know what it’s like to be in and out of the team and be dropped from the squad altogether. Just trying to make the most of my position at the moment…I guess taking it one series at a time – it’s a bit of a cliché, but that’s how it is.
“I’m obviously happy with how they came out in the Indian series. It’s nice to try and make an impact, especially through the middle overs. After that series I feel really confident about my role in the team. I feel as though the first couple of games I wasn’t at my best, but to get the wickets on the board built my confidence up a little bit. So I feel like, particularly the last game, it was probably the best I bowled. I’m feeling confident at the moment.”
Zampa’s inconsistent use in the ODI team since 2016, where he was picked and dropped almost irrespective of how he was performing, led to the attitude come January last year that he was quite simply a conditions-based selection. “I’ve played a lot of Big Bash [games] on pretty flat surfaces, like the MCG and Adelaide Oval when I was at the Strikers,” he said before last summer’s series against England. “So I do back myself in any conditions. But the feedback is, and I’m used to it now, that if conditions suit I’ll play and if not then I won’t.
“That’s the way I see it, with the strength of our fast bowling that we have too, I am going to miss games. So I pretty much see it as that, with the conditions, if the conditions suit, I’ll play, if not then I might sit out.”
Pushed to reconsider this policy by events around the world, where England and India have notably used twin spin as a matter of course, Hohns has said that Zampa and Lyon are now much more central to team plans. “Most teams around the world seem to be including one at least and probably two spinners in their World Cup squad. We expect them to,” Hohns said during the tour of India.
“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and just say we’re going with fast bowlers when spinners in world cricket, and in one-day cricket in particular, are being very, very successful. Nathan we know is a world-class bowler…very experienced. Zampa is coming along quite nicely, so we’re comfortable at the moment. It’s a good combination.”
With this in mind, Zampa is eager to face Pakistan, a team known for taking the attack to spin bowlers, though often with plenty of risk attached to the attempt. “The Indians are really good at milking, they like to go at five or six an over through the middle without taking too many risks,” Zampa said when contrasting the teams of Virat Kohli and Pakistan’s stand-in captain Shoaib Malik. “Whereas the Pakistani guys go quite hard…they’ll choose a period during the game when they’ll take me on, so that’s something I’m up for. I’ll just do my preparation, watch a lot of footage and go from there.” (ESPNCricinfo)