It was only into his teens and on his father’s advice that Adam Zampa started bowling leg-spin. “Before that, I would bowl medium-pace; those little in-swingers,” Zampa told HT in an interview, his first in India, breaking into a slight smile.
In a season where little has gone right for Rising Pune Supergiants, Zampa’s man-of-the-match haul of 6/19 against Sunrisers Hyderabad was a bright spot. It was only the second time a bowler took that many wickets in an IPL match, and the first time that happened was in 2008. Excerpts:
From the sidelines to six wickets, it’s been some IPL debut season for you.
As an overseas player you can almost feel at the start of the tournament that you might not even get on the field at all and that’s frustrating. Then, you get a game and take the most of it like I have and it turns around very quickly.
What adjustment do you have to make bowling on Indian wickets?
Because the wickets are little bit slower here, you have to get used to bowling a fuller length. I found that one of my strengths is that I keep hitting the stumps; my strength is to outsmart the batsman rather than backing my leg-spinner to spin past and he makes a mistake. The good thing about bowling on wickets here is that probably there is more variable bounce than in Australia. So, a lot of my wickets would be mishits or even going under the batsman’s bat rather than spinning past.
Is your leg-spinner a work in progress?
I have copped a lot of criticism that I am not a really big turner of the ball but the other day, I spun one past the bat for a stumping (of Deepak Hooda of Sunrisers Hyderabad), spun one past (Shahid) Afridi in the World T20....So yeah!
Would you rather focus on what you have than add to your repertoire?
One of the reasons I have come a long way at a young age is that I can put aside criticism. I’ve got quite a thick skin. The biggest issue with being a spin bowler is that from a young age you have a lot of coaches that want a piece of you, tell you what they think. A spinner can be ruined by too much information. My biggest strength from a young age has been to see past the information that I thought was no good for me.
I was lucky to have a mentor in Trent Woodhill (batting coach with Royal Challengers Bangalore). Sort of learnt from him that ability of listening to coaches but making sure your strength stays your strength and you don’t try to be like someone else.
I know I am not a perfect bowler at the moment but I have felt that in the last 12 months, I have got better and better. Not sure what it is, maybe playing in different conditions and bowling to a lot of good batsmen in that period.
For a young, successful Australian leg-spinner comparison with Shane Warne is inevitable, isn’t it?
(Breaks into a smile) It was my father’s idea that I bowl leg-spin so that I do something different which makes it easier to get noticed. I started bowling leg-spin when I was about 15. And the idea back home then was that you would try to bowl like Warnie because he was the best. I guess, I have a similar run-up and bowling action. We also bowl at a similar pace but he is so big and strong and had such a big presence at the crease. And his biggest asset was bowling the strong leg-spinner for a long amount of time.
Have you had sessions with Warne?
Once, when I was 15 or 16. During the Big Bash this year, we won the semi-final and he came into our dressing room and had a word with me. Some tactical things, that’s something he’s very strong on.
It’s a bit unusual for a leg-spinner to do well in the shorter version than in the more traditional format isn’t it?
No, I’d expect it to be the way it’s gone at the moment, T20 and one-day cricket. The shorter version is great for leg-spin; batsmen have to come at you, you have five fielders on the fence. I don’t know about the first-class cricket situation here but in Australia it’s really tough work in terms of conditions you get and what’s expected from some spin bowlers. My record is pretty similar to a lot of spinners in Australia but the best ones have been finger spinners like (Nathan) Lyon and (Stephen) O’Keefe who can build more pressure than anyone else.
Does it help that MS Dhoni’s your captain? He was speaking to you regularly during that six-wicket spell against Sunrisers?
As I said, my strength has been to hit the stumps. I tried to do that the first ball and he (Hooda) came down the wicket and hit a six. My usual way out of the situation is to try and go faster at stumps. But he (Dhoni) was very good in knowing that player’s strength and weakness and so I went wide. He is a nice, calm influence at the other end of the wicket. We would work well together because I am a very good executor of plans.
Does it surprise you that Australia again flopped in the World T20?
It doesn’t help that you don’t play many competitions as a squad. And in the World Cup, it’s a game of inches. We probably made a couple of bad decisions in the first game against New Zealand. (Sighs) And once you lose the first game of a competition like that you are on the backfoot straightaway. We played good cricket and won the next two games. The match against India was a virtual quarter-final and there’s not much you can do when Virat Kohli plays that way… But it looks bad that we didn’t make semis.
Like your teammate R Ashwin, are you a big believer in planning?
You need to have some sort of a plan. You can’t bowl the same way to (Andre) Russell and Kane Williamson. I never used to be big planner and video watcher but changed that some 18 months ago when I was playing for Adelaide Strikers. I hadn’t really done well in T20 before that and hence put in a conscious effort.
What do you recall of the bizarre Peter Nevill run-out in this year’s Big Bash?
It’s still a bit of blur to me, I think I reacted more in shock. The right thing to do would have been to protect myself, cup my nose and figure out how badly I was hurt. Instead, I told him ‘you are out’. I can still remember the ball hitting Nevill’s bat (at the non-striker’s end) and it almost felt like forever before the ball hit my nose, hit the stumps and Nevill was run out.
How did cricket start for you at Shellharbour, New South Wales?
Dad got me into it. He was a ‘country cricketer’, club-level player. Mum would take me to watch him play and that’s how it started. It’s was tough for me being a country boy to break into the city system and my mom and dad would drive for two hours either way three times a week to bring me to Sydney and play cricket.
Phil Hughes was a country cricketer too, wasn’t he?
Hughes was different. He was so, so good at such a young age. I think he didn’t finish school and moved to Sydney and then just scored runs after runs.
What interests do you have other than cricket?
I am passionate about animals. I have pets but the passion goes further. It’s more about farm animals. Maybe, some day I can start an animal sanctuary. It’s tough doing that now when I am always on the road.
Spoken to Yusuf Pathan about this as he too has an animal farm at home?
I didn’t know. Will have to speak to his brother (Irfan who is a teammate at Rising Pune Supergiants).