Home Grown: ‘Rat’ Zampa’s rise from Warilla to the ‘G
Five years ago, Adam Zampa made his international debut in Wellington. Today he returns to the same venue as just the fourth Australian spinner to play 100 matches for his country.
Zampa joins Shane Warne (338), Brad Hogg (145) and Nathan Lyon (131) as the only specialist spinners to play 100 matches across all formats for Australia.
“When you reflect on five years ago, you’re a kid who is literally just hoping to get on the next tour and give yourself a two-year career,” Zampa told The Unplayable Podcast.
“I don’t know if that’s how everyone else starts off in their own mind but it’s pretty tough being a leg-spinner.
“Not many people have been able to sustain it for a long period of time so it’s something that I’m a little bit proud of.”
Zampa made his one-day international debut in February 2016 against the Black Caps, dismissing Kane Williamson – caught at cover by Steve Smith – for his maiden wicket in the green and gold of Australia.
2016 flashback: Two wickets on debut for Zampa
The Zampa that debuted is vastly different to the Zampa that is today considered the premier white-ball spinner in the country.
From his action and approach to even his haircut, the boy from Warilla on NSW’s south coast has come a long way in his 99 games to date.
“I was actually watching some footage the other day of the Wellington game from five years ago and my bowling is ridiculously different,” Zampa said.
“Like walking into bowl like I’m Shane Warne, bowling a lot slower, shocking haircut as well – stinker.
“Mentally you change. I remember when I first played for Australia I would feel ridiculously nervous that I would have a vomit either in the bathroom or in the field.
“Hopefully nobody would see it but I used to shit my daks.
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“Now, you’re confident in your action, confident in your mental prep, your training, you’ve actually been in so many situations since then that are going to probably pop up in this next game.
“You have the mental and physical capacity to deal with it, which is the way that I look at it.
“Maybe something will pop up that’s never happened but I’m experienced enough now to deal with it.”
What is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Zampa’s achievement is that he’s done it as a spinner who doesn’t spin the ball big.
Instead of a booming stock leg-spinner and savagely spun googly, Zampa has added other weapons to his arsenal, all subtle variations that only have to spin enough to get the best batters in the world out.
Zampa is the first to point out, with tongue in cheek most of the time, he has dismissed India’s champion batter Virat Kohli seven times in international cricket.
But the 28-year-old says spinning the ball bigger remains a focus of his since he was humbled at the cricket academy as a teenager.
“I think about it all the time,” he said.
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“Literally, it’s one of the things that still drives me to get to 100 ODIs, to keep playing for Australia, to hopefully one day play Test cricket, keep playing Shield cricket.
“It angers me to think about it right now, but it’s stuck in my mind when I was at the academy and they put these bloody dots on you and they connected them to a machine and you have a bowl and they count your revs (revolutions on the ball).
“Everyone was always better. Everyone always had more revs and they were like, ‘You need to work on your revs, look at the revs per minute. They’re not high enough. You don’t spin the ball enough.’
“The blokes that did have the high revs aren’t playing any cricket whatsoever now or they played two or three games for Australia and aren’t playing cricket now or they’re playing club cricket somewhere.
“That’s one of the driving factors for me, that time at the academy where I got a bad review for my revs per minute.
“That’s the receipt that I’ve kept in my mind for the last decade of my life.”
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With Zampa set to play his 100th match, gone is the pre-match puke and the fear of failure.
His goals now include winning silverware for his country and playing 100 ODIs (he’s currently logged 68), but he is not looking too far ahead, despite feeling confident about his place in the team.
“The stage that I’m at now in my career where I feel like I can go 0-40 in a game of cricket and still feel like I’m going to play the next three or four games for my country is a much better place than when I was in 2017, when I was 24 years old and felt like I needed to get three wickets every game to just to make sure I got a game at the next venue, even though the next venue was the Gabba or the WACA where I wasn’t going to play anyway,” he said.
“In 2016 and 2017, I tried not to look too far ahead and that worked. That’s what I’m doing now.
“I’ve got these next three games coming up, the IPL and a few other opportunities to get better and keep cementing my spot.”
Qantas T20I tour of New Zealand 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, D’Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Hamish Bennett, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, *Martin Guptill (pending fitness test), Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee. *Finn Allen (on stand-by for Guptill)