What’s going on with Adam Zampa? When Australia played an ODI before their World Cup opener against India in Chennai in March last year, Zampa received the man of the match award. On an evening when Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Ashton Agar found enough bite off the surface, it was the opener who took four wickets as he was braver than the Indians as Australia successfully defended 269.
On Sunday, Australia were 70 runs short and knew that the last 10 overs of their chase could have been affected by dew. But when their fast bowlers launched an attack early, the target of 200 suddenly seemed bigger, especially with Zampa around. In these slow, low conditions, Indian batsmen often find themselves under pressure and self-destructing. Recently, during the Asia Cup, the spinners of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh exposed this weakness.
So from the moment Josh Hazlewood reduced India to 2 from 3 in the second quarter, it was expected that Zampa would have a bigger role to play on this surface. The turn has come. If it was delivered more slowly through the air, the strange ball stopped above the surface. If he increased the revs and got into the air faster, he would definitely skid. The only problem was that someone forgot to tell Pat Cummins about it when the opener only came to bowl in the 18th minute, ahead of Glenn Maxwell, who had bowled four overs by then. By choosing to include only one runner, a tribe that needs a lot of trust and confidence, Australia, especially Cummins, seemed to have missed a trick on Sunday. Instead of playing an attacking role, he quickly resorted to playing defensively after being initially attacked by KL Rahul, losing only one wicket in the remaining seven overs.
Former Australia captain Aaron Finch believes Zampa is yet to recover from his neck injury. “Adam Zampa obviously didn’t bowl as well as he did in the past. He has had a neck injury and shoulder problems, so understandably his form is slightly below his best,” he wrote in the ICC bulletin. “The ball got very wet and the way KL Rahul hit him in the first minute was devastating. He played a beautiful late cut and a very good ball which forced Zamps to play a bit more fully, push for a bit more pace and ultimately cross the pitch. This was down to great batting rather than anything Zamps could have done differently. They just had an advantage over him today.
Having arrived at the World Cup with just one lone player in Zampa, when Australia decided to replace the injured Ashton Agar with Marnus Labuschagne, their hands were already tied. Of course, there is Maxwell, who can be counted on to bowl 10 overs off the spin, but overall he is only a part-time bowler. This was a night where Australia could have benefited from having another spinner, but just like the 2011 edition where they relied solely on Jason Krezja and ultimately only made it to the quarter-finals, they seem to be making the same mistake.
“No, I don’t think so,” Hazlewood said, should Australia be without another spinner. “I think our speed is our strength, probably in attack as we saw today. And apart from that, I think Maxwell is a top player, especially in India. He played a lot here during the IPL and one-day tournaments. So no, I don’t think we are lacking at all,” he added.
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The fact that Cummins has captained Australia in a total of only two ODIs this year hasn’t helped much. During the same period, Zampa played nine matches and was expected to play a leading role in the campaign with Agar in attendance. However, in the absence of the left-arm spinner, the team simply leaves Australia with Zampa, a left-arm spinner with whom their captain has played only two matches this year.
Next in the World Cup, Australia will travel to Lucknow, a venue that has only pitches with black soil. Even though the World Cup matches will be played on a hard surface at the Ekana Stadium, it remains to be seen how different it will be from the IPL, where the pitch was slow and difficult to score on. Australia will face South Africa and Sri Lanka in Lucknow, two teams that have good spinners in their ranks as well as better spin players. Apart from ensuring that their batsmen perform well on such a surface, Australia need to ensure that Zampa regains his confidence, otherwise their campaign could go in the wrong direction.
Perhaps reaching out to Nathan Lyon, who is recovering from a calf injury, wouldn’t be a bad idea.
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