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T20 World Cup: Australia thriving on the Zampa factor

T20 World Cup: Australia thriving on the Zampa factor

He is the first Australian to take 100 wickets in T20Is. He is the leading wicket-taker for Australia across T20 World Cups. He is also only next to Shane Warne for the most wickets by an Australian spinner in ODIs.

Australia's Adam Zampa tosses a ball while bowling against Namibia during an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium(PTI)
Australia’s Adam Zampa tosses a ball while bowling against Namibia during an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium(PTI)

Adam Zampa’s white-ball career is growing in stature with every passing game. Against Namibia in North Sound, Antigua, on Tuesday night, Zampa got to the milestone of 100 T20I wickets with a four-for in his 83rd game, giving Australia a nine-wicket win and a spot in the Super Eight stage of the T20 World Cup.

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Coming into the attack with Namibia on 17/3 after six overs, the 32-year-old leg-spinner was in a position to run through the side and hasten the end of proceedings. He did exactly that before Namibia folded for 72 in 17 overs. He was accurate as ever, cleverly mixing up leg-breaks and googlies against a Namibia unit not accustomed to facing top-class leg-spin. The final ball of his uninterrupted spell of 4-0-12-4, a big-turning wrong ’un that made No.9 Bernard Scholtz his 100th victim, was the icing on the cake.

Zampa has been rewarded with the Player-of-the-Match award in successive games now. Against England in Bridgetown, Barbados too his spell of 4-0-28-2 proved to be decisive in Australia’s 36-run victory. These performances are indicative of Zampa turning into a key component of Australia’s white-ball teams over the past few years.

“If you look at his career, over the past four or five years, he is probably our most important player, in our structure. He loves the big moment, the pressure, and he is bowling beautifully at the moment,” Australia skipper Mitch Marsh said at the post-match presentation.

In his first few years as an international cricketer, Zampa, who made his debut in 2016, was striving to find his way, perhaps weighed down by the pressure that has gripped every Australian leggie after Warne. It was only in 2019 that Zampa – he took his first four-wicket haul that year – cemented his place as Australia’s frontline spinner in the shorter formats following impressive displays against India and Pakistan in back-to-back series just before the ODI World Cup. He hasn’t looked back since.

He was integral to Australia’s T20 World Cup triumph in the UAE in 2021 and also to their champagne-popping efforts at the ODI World Cup in India last year. That Australia’s fortunes were intertwined with Zampa’s at the 50-over event can be gauged from the fact that their only losses came in the first two games when Zampa was below par. Once his performances picked up, so did Australia’s.

Zampa may not be a big turner of the ball, but never shies away from pitting his skills against the world’s best batters. Dismissing Virat Kohli five times in ODIs and thrice in T20Is underlines that.

“I really enjoy bowling in pressure situations. I thrive on that,” Zampa said in February. “I am never one to steer away from that kind of a contest. My attitude is always about how I can take a wicket and change the game. I never regret putting myself in those situations. I always want the ball in my hand, I love those situations.”

These may be the right things to say at a media interaction, but Zampa walks the talk when his team is under the cosh. When he was introduced into the attack against England at Kensington Oval, for instance, the defending champions were coasting at 73/0 in seven overs in a chase of 202. How did Zampa react? He dismissed Phil Salt off his first delivery, with a skiddy leg-break that cramped the England opener for room, took the inside-edge and hit the stumps. Less than two overs later, he accounted for Jos Buttler too.

In the post-match press conference, Zampa was asked whether he found it hard to step out of Warne’s shadow when he first entered the Australian set-up. “Never really thought of it that way, to be honest,” he responded. “Like I had to fight for my position in the team for a long time. And then I was lucky enough to have captains that backed me, (Aaron) Finch really backed me. It’s the same with (Pat) Cummins and Marsh as well. And under this coaching management, my role is clear, I’ve done the work over time to build up that skill level. But in terms of actually my role in the team, I get backed to take wickets and try and win the game for us – I absolutely feel that with our leadership.”