South Africa v Australia T20I - Men's
Selection fear keeps Zampa's competitive fire burning
White-ball leg-spin whiz is as entrenched as he's ever been in Australia's limited-overs set-up, but says a healthy concern about being dropped helps drive him
Martin Smith in Cape Town
28 February 2020, 12:44 PM AEST
Adam Zampa's position in Australia's T20 side has never been more secure, but the 27-year-old still doesn't feel comfortable enough to relax ahead of this year's World Cup.
Zampa's spin partnership with Ashton Agar has been a key driver of Australia's recent T20 resurgence, with the leg-spinner missing just two of 19 matches since he returned to the side at the end of 2018.
But having dropped in and out of favour throughout his four years at international level, Zampa says he still feels the constant threat of the selection axe.
"Even now, I don't feel comfortable," he said after taking 2-10 in Australia's thumping of South Africa in Cape Town that secured a fourth consecutive T20 series win.
"(It) is probably a good thing, to be honest. It's the same as any professional cricketer at this level, they probably feel the same.
"I haven't been comfortable since I started playing professional cricket. I hope it's a good thing and it keeps me driven."
Zampa has grown accustomed to the conversation every cricketer dreads, when he's pulled aside by a selector and told he's not playing the next game.
In the four years since making his debut at the highest level, he's dropped out of the T20 side on five occasions. In one-day cricket, the axe has fallen a staggering 10 times, including twice at last year's 50-over World Cup.
It means he's in a constant state of preparing for what comes next, with experience telling him one or two bad games in a row could see him fall out of the side again.
"My mind is already thinking about the ODI series," Zampa said less than an hour after Australia's T20 win at Newlands.
"Obviously, you have good games and you have good series and you reflect on that. But there's definitely no comfort in it at all.
"It was a great win tonight and we had two really convincing wins in this series. But personally, as someone who hasn't felt comfortable for his whole career, I've already got my mind on the next series."
Zampa has always been realistic about his place in the world order of wrist spinners. He knows better than anyone that he doesn't possess the tricks of Adil Rashid or Imran Tahir, he isn't as unpredictable as Kuldeep Yadav, and he doesn't pose the same threat as Rashid Khan.
But despite the insecurity over his place in the side, and acknowledgement of his technical shortcomings as a bowler, arguably Zampa's greatest quality is his confidence and willingness to try and impose himself on a game.
"I don't think I'm the most skillful leg-spinner in the world, so I've always had to have the edge, something that stands me apart from the really skillful guy," he says.
"I just try and get as competitive as I can, want the ball under pressure and I want to win games for whoever I'm playing for.
"However I've got to get it done, that's how I'm going to do it. That's where my competitiveness comes from."
And in Agar, the leggie has found a spin partner that has helped get the best out of him, and he's done the same in return.
In the past 12 months, the spin duo has combined for 26 wickets at an average of just 16.5 and an economy rate of slightly higher than a run a ball.
Coming on behind a pace attack led by Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, the pair has been a dominant force and their partnership will be a key factor in Australia's push to win their first World Cup this year.
"I think the best thing is we've got a really good friendship," Zampa said.
"We speak about spin bowling a lot. We speak about our roles and how they might change day in and day out. We do a lot of preparation on the opposition together and talk about it a lot."
Australia's Qantas Tour of South Africa 2020
Australia T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitch Marsh, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
Australia ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey (vc), Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
First T20: Australia won by 107 runs
Second T20: South Africa won by 12 runs
Third T20: Australia won by 97 runs