Bowling against India in Chennai at the start of the tournament, Adam Zampa looked like a bowler who was short on confidence. The legspinner conceded 53 runs from eight overs after the pacers did the job of picking up three early wickets defending a small total. He struggled to keep the pressure through the middle overs.
For someone who had a decent record against India, he looked like a shadow of himself. However, things might be different this time in Ahmedabad as the leg-spinner has grown strength to strength as the tournament has gone on.
When Ashton Agar was injured and the fitness of Travis Head was up in the air, Australia decided to stick with the latter and not try and replace Agar with another spinner in the squad. The decision meant that Adam Zampa would be the frontline spinner in the squad with Glenn Maxwell as the second option.
While there were also the options of Marnus Labuschange, Steven Smith, and Travis Head who could roll their arm over and bowl a bit of spin, it felt like a poor decision at the beginning of the tournament especially when they lost their first two games. Zampa went for 1/70 against South Africa too.
However, he found his rhythm against Sri Lanka and the fortunes of his and the Aussies have turned around dramatically from that point on.
After his Player-of-the-match performance against England, when asked about what his mindset was when he learnt that he would be the main spinner in the squad, he would say, “You (Andrew McDonald) guys must think I’m pretty good if you think I can do the job by myself. So yeah, I took it as a lot of confidence, to be honest, not responsibility.”
Out of the 57 wickets that have been taken by the leggies in the tournament 22 have been picked by Zampa. The right-arm leg spinners of other teams have struggled to make an impact for their sides in the middle overs.
In modern white-ball games, the leg spinners have been ruling the roost compared to other types of spinners. Not long ago in IPL 2023, right-arm leggies shone bright with a total of 175 wickets across the board. Though it is a different format it shows the level of domination they can have in Indian conditions.
The discrepancy in the numbers between this World Cup and IPL might be due to the number of fielders that the bowler can have for the majority of the overs in both formats. In T20s there can be five fielders outside the ring once the first Powerplay ends however, in ODI there is a 30-over period where there are only four fielders available outside the circle.
That’s where former Indian left-arm spinner Murali Karthik feels the art of making a batter hit only on certain parts of the ground gets important. “When you want the batter to hit to only one part of the ground you need skill. Bowlers can bowl both sides that’s when batters can take advantage and hit wherever they want,” had told the Indian Express.
That’s where Zampa has stood out in the tournament. In the game against Pakistan, he picked up four wickets. “Adam Zampa is bowling wicket-to-wicket and is cramping you for room. He wants you to play square of the wicket and get you outbowled or LBW. How did our batters get out today?” questioned former Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq speaking on A Sports.
According to Cricket-21.com Zampa has bowled the majority of his deliveries in the good length region and refrained from tossing the ball up unless needed. He picked 15 wickets of his 22 wickets bowling them short of a length, letting the ball skid through and asking the batters to play square of the wicket, then tossing the ball and beating the batters in flight and guile.
One man army
“I mean our strength has always been our fast bowling as well it’s hard to get away from those three guys, they keep rocking up and doing the job every single time as well,” Zampa would say. However, it has not been the case this tournament. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins bowled exceptionally in the semifinals against South Africa however, but before that they were struggling to pick up wickets consistently.
Before the match in Kolkata, the five-time champions had been the least effective team in the first Powerplay of all teams that finished in the top four. They had picked up just 11 wickets in this phase. However, once Zampa is introduced into the attack he has been able to pull things back for them and his spell would paper over the bowling cracks. Out of 38 wickets Australia have picked up between overs 11-40, 17 have fallen to Zampa.
Against an on-song David Miller, Zampa struggled on Thursday. But come the final on Sunday, India would be wary of the impact the 31-year-old can have.