Resolute Zampa puts fresh spin on axing
Leg-spinner set to launch World Cup bid with continuous cricket in the UK after being dropped from Australia's limited-overs sides
14 May 2018, 03:57 PM AEST
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa admits the thought of giving away first-class cricket has briefly crossed his mind, but has resolved to keep pushing his case in all formats after being overlooked for Australia's upcoming limited-overs tours.
Zampa’s name was not included in Australia’s squads for the Qantas Tour of England and T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe after a home summer of white-ball cricket that did not demand future selection.
In four one-day internationals against England in the new year he claimed two wickets at 107.5 and played just one game on Australia’s successful T20 tri-series campaign against England and New Zealand.
Given he played a handful of JLT Sheffield Shield games last year as part of a South Australian squad brimming with quality pace options, and that his immediate international prospects appear suited to the shorter forms of the game, Zampa said he has pondered becoming a white-ball specialist.
Fellow leggie Adil Rashid and his England teammate Alex Hales signed white-ball only contracts for their respective counties this year and ply their trade around the world’s various T20 tournaments.
But Zampa insists he isn’t at that stage just yet.
"The thought has crossed my mind (about playing white-ball cricket exclusively) but I’m still driven to play red-ball cricket and any move I make going forward is just about me getting as much cricket in as I can," Zampa told cricket.com.au.
"It’s really important in Shield cricket this year to get those overs in and play as much cricket as I can so I do have the opportunity to get better.
"Because I really do think that cost me this year, being 12th man as much as I was."
Upon receiving the bad news he’d been dropped from national selector Trevor Hohns, Zampa was told his past 12 months – which yielded eight wickets from nine ODIs – was the reason why he was overlooked for national duties this winter.
But after speaking to new head coach Justin Langer and maintaining consistent dialogue with the selectors, Zampa is feeling hopeful, determined and ready to embark on a journey back into the green and gold in time for next year’s World Cup.
"It’s all positive going forward for me," said Zampa. "Everybody is on the same wavelength.
"My path is pretty clear at the moment: Play heaps of cricket, get heaps of wickets, get better.
"I’ve got the numbers on the board and in 12 months’ time if they want that wrist-spinning option for the World Cup I’m going to make sure my experiences are invaluable for the selectors."
Before the squads to England and Zimbabwe were named last week, it was Langer who sent Zampa a reassuring text message about the position the 26-year-old finds himself in.
Having gone from the world’s leading ODI wicket-taker in 2016 to being out of the team less than two years later, Zampa feels as though Langer will be able to get the best out of him.
In part because he believes they are cut from the same cloth, one made of part hippy, part competitive cricketer, part resilient teammate.
"He (Langer) said ‘I know exactly how you feel at the moment, mate. It feels like a bit of a s**t sandwich’," said Zampa, recounting his phone call with the new head coach.
"I’ve done a bit of work with JL in the past at the academy and he’s taken a few of the white-ball tours the last couple of years and I really enjoy JL.
"As he said in his press conference, he really enjoys having different kinds of people that he can coach. I think I fit that bill pretty well.
"I felt like playing under JL will be a new start for me, and he said there are going to be opportunities coming up in the next 12 months or so, so just make sure you’re ready to take it.
"He said he really likes me as a cricketer and he knows how driven I am as a player."
Looking back at where his decline started, Zampa isolated one moment prior to Australia’s limited-overs tour of India eight months ago.
"Last year I reckon I missed an opportunity by turning down a chance to play in the CPL (Caribbean Premier League)," he said.
"In the back of my head I thought that would have been a really good opportunity to play some cricket before that India tour, but I was advised not to go and do it and I went into that Indian tour without playing any cricket at all.
"That was probably the start of my downfall last summer.
"I didn’t bowl well the first game (1-66 off 10 overs) and I didn’t look threatening since then.
"I really regret not playing some cricket before some really important games."
To get back to where he was at the end of 2016 as the year’s most prolific ODI bowler, Zampa believes all it will take is game time.
While Australia begin their preparations for five ODIs against the world’s top-ranked 50-over nation England, Zampa will be rolling the arm over for League side Brentwood and playing Second XI cricket for Essex ahead of his T20 commitments with the county.
It’s in England’s south-east where Zampa will be hoping to string together some top-level cricket to work on his stock leg-break, gain experience playing in UK conditions and get a head start on a home summer that looms vitally important for his World Cup aspirations.
"I haven’t played a lot of cricket lately and the best season I’ve had is for Australia and domestic cricket was 2016 where I just played heaps and heaps of cricket," he said. "I’ve got a good opportunity now to do that.
"Twenty20 seems to be my best format and I’ve worked it out that I’ve only played 10 games since the last IPL.
"To have the Essex opportunity now to look forward to, which should be about 13 or 14 games and a good chance to play a lot of back-to-back cricket to work on that leg-spinner and different variations.
"It’s also a good opportunity to bowl well in English conditions where the World Cup is going to be."
As it stands right now, Ashton Agar, Nathan Lyon and possibly Swepson are in Zampa’s way for a World Cup berth.
But Zampa doesn’t see it that way and is confident a return to his best will give him the best shot of helping Australia defend their 2015 title next year.
"I’m trying not to think about it as a pecking order," he said.
"Rather, what I’ve done over the last two-and-a-half years for Australia will hold me in good stead.
"I know I’ve got a lot of improving to do and the path is clear to me now.
"I’ve got the experience and the next 12 months for me is about getting that World Cup spot.
"The selectors have made it pretty clear that they definitely want a wrist-spinner that can spin it both ways.
"If I am bowling well in 12 months’ time that’s all I can really do."