I want to change perceptions: Zampa eyes a Baggy Green
Australia's white-ball leg-spinner of choice sets his sights on a long-term project to become Nathan Lyon's partner on Australia's subcontinent Test tours
12 May 2020, 05:51 PM AEST
Adam Zampa, Australia's first-choice leg-spinner in limited overs cricket, has doubled down on his ambitions to earn a Baggy Green cap, declaring he wants to shed the public perception of him as a white-ball only bowler.
Zampa, who is on a Cricket Australia national contract, is expected to complete a move to the NSW Blues once the domestic contracting embargo lifts. He has spent the past seven season with the South Australian Redbacks.
It comes after Stephen O'Keefe's retirement from first-class cricket and will see him play home games at Australia's most spin-friendly surface, the Sydney Cricket Ground. He will train and play alongside Nathan Lyon – as well as the glut of other internationals in NSW ranks.
While the 28-year-old tweaker can expect to be kept busy in Australia's coloured clothes with two T20 World Cups in the next 18 months, he's made no secret of the fact he wants more opportunities in the Sheffield Shield to push his case.
"Playing Test cricket is still the ultimate goal," Zampa said today.
"Over the last few years it's been really easy to pinpoint me as a white-ball bowler, I've played most white-ball games for Australia over the past three or four years, so it has really limited my first-class opportunities.
"I want to change people's perceptions.
"My first-class record doesn't really speak for itself but I think over the past three years while I haven't been playing first-class cricket I've really improved as a bowler.
"I'm looking to still get that Baggy Green, that's my ultimate goal."
Zampa knows it won't come quickly, nor easily, and those perceptions will be tough to overcome. But he makes a valid point that the numbers don't do him justice.
In the past two season he has played just three Shield games for South Australia, for a combined 5-439 from 105.1 overs, at an average of 87.8, strike rate of 126.2 and economy rate of 4.18.
His career numbers of 105 wickets at 48.26 from 38 matches – with two five-wicket hauls – are better, but still leave ample room for improvement.
Zampa's best summer of Shield cricket so far was 2016-17, when he took 30 wickets at 38.30 in eight matches, as many games as he has played in the three years since.
But Australia's touring schedule over the next few years means the race is on to be Lyon's understudy on away tours to spin-friendly locations. With a two-Test series against Bangladesh to reschedule, Australia also have away Test series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and India before the 2022-23 summer.
"You'd be silly if you didn't think you were a chance (for selection) as a spinner in Australia at the moment," Zampa said.
"That's the ultimate goal. I'd love to get some more first-class cricket under my belt first, but I think with the way that I've improved over the last couple of years at the international level (it helps).
"I feel like the last 12 months have been a really good test for me and I've come out of it pretty well. I've still got the goal to play Test cricket for sure.
"The exposure for red-ball hasn't really been there. With subcontinent tours you've got guys like Mitchell Swepson who's bowling really well and playing Shield cricket, and Ashton Agar who's had a little bit of experience there as well.
"And then you've got Jon Holland who's dominated in first-class cricket.
"I've just got to take my opportunities when it comes and my international experience can speak for itself."
Just where those opportunities will come is a conundrum Zampa, like many of Australia's white-ball players on the fringe of Test selection, know all too well.
Limited-overs matches often overlap with Shield cricket, and spots in the first-class county system can be hard to come by.
"It's a tough one, particularly with the international schedule and the way it is probably going to look after COVID-19 too, is they're going to look to squeeze more cricket in," Zampa admits.
"So it's a tough question to answer. I'd be silly if I said I wanted to drop any formats of the game to try and reach that (Test) ambition.
"I think my best way in is to try and continue doing what I've been doing in white-ball cricket for Australia.
"But also when I do get the opportunity in first-class cricket to take it.
"You've got to roll with the schedule. It's important to keep playing for Australia. Any international game is really important to me. That's my best way in, to keep going that way, to steadily improve and hope there are some red-ball opportunities somewhere along the line."
Zampa joined the calls for Australia to produce wickets more conducive to spin bowling, saying drop-in pitches had "changed the game massively" for spinners.
"There's a lot to be said about bowling on flat wickets and Nathan does that really well but realistically, other spinners, we're going to be partnering Nathan in upcoming subcontinent tours," Zampa said.
"I don't know what it's like to bowl on a spinning wicket in Shield cricket. The closest thing I've had to a spinning wicket in the Shield is at the Adelaide Oval when it's green and thatchy.
"But that limits the amount of overs you bowl as well.
"There should be an emphasis put on it (developing spinning wickets). We put a lot of effort into playing the swinging ball in England, we've had the Dukes ball over the last few years in Shield too.
"I don't know if it has to be every wicket, but there has to be some sort of emphasis on brining spin bowlers back into the game, particularly on day four."