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From Brentwood to the World Cup: Adam Zampa's return to the top

Adam Zampa is starting to bamboozle more and more batsmen in international cricket Getty Images

A year ago Australian cricket was trying to pick up the pieces after the Newlands ball-tampering scandal. On an individual level, Adam Zampa was trying to pick up the pieces of his career.

Even with the one-day side stripped of a host of names for a variety of reasons, Zampa could not find a spot in the inexperienced squad that travelled to England for what turned out to be a torrid tour where they lost every game. The closest Zampa came to the trip was bowling during an Australia net session at Lord's, knowing that Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar had moved ahead of him in the pecking order.

Instead he was turning out for Brentwood Cricket Club as he prepared for a T20 Blast stint with Essex. It was, Zampa reflects, a key period from which he has risen to be Australia's first choice spinner at the World Cup. He returned to Australia colours against South Africa early in the home summer before cementing his standing with 18 wickets in his last 10 ODIs against India and Pakistan.

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"Twelve months ago I was playing for Brentwood Cricket Club against Monty Panesar, which was interesting, trying to get ready for a T20 gig for Essex. That was really good for me because you're the overseas player and there's a lot of expectation and pressure, also doing my own thing for a few months was really nice.

"I was leading wicket-taker in the world in my first year [of international cricket] and then I think as a young guy you can take it for granted and think the way you are doing things is the way to go and it will turn around, but I found that's not the way it works. I was disappointed when I was out of the thinking but it was actually really good for me."

Zampa's recall of his numbers is spot on. In 2016 he claimed 30 ODI wickets, putting him top of the tree ahead of John Hastings and Adil Rashid. But his returns diminished from there before he was dropped after the home series against England in early 2018. The climb back started when he was Essex's leading wicket-taker in their T20 Blast campaign and now he stands as one of the group of legspinners expected to play a vital role in a World Cup where wicket-taking will be key with Australia under Justin Langer having, almost at the last moment, grasped the importance of spin in the one-day game.

However, even as recently as a couple of months ago, Zampa was feeling unsure about himself as he stood at the top of his mark preparing to bowl to Virat Kohli and co. It was in India in 2017 that the problems that would lead to his omission became more significant and he needed to convince himself he could bowl in the conditions and against a prolific batting line-up.

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"On that India tour I didn't feel like I was at my best for the first three games. Maxi [Glenn Maxwell] had a word to me and said, good on you for getting wickets but you aren't at your best - what have you changed from the Big Bash when I was bowling really well. It was just preparation, a few things where I was just overcomplicating it.

"The thing I took from that is that, standing at the top of my mark, I'd over-prepared in India. The last time I'd gone to India was where it started to go a little bit downhill, I didn't know the best way to bowl in India, and I was still thinking about that. I was lucky to get some wickets and got confidence from that but the big thing was to keep it simple."

The other aspect Zampa has come to terms with is just how difficult his chosen art form is. For a leggie, it can be a fine line between the good and bad days. "It's a tough job. I'm never too hard on myself which makes it a little bit easier. You are definitely under pressure a lot of the time. I might be biased, but I think bowling legspin is one of the toughest things you can do so I'm never too hard on myself so that's simplified it."

Twenty years ago, when Australia came back from the brink to claim the first of their hat-trick of World Cup titles, a blond legspinner was the hero, a matter of months after he too had been dropped from the national team. Could history repeat itself? For Zampa and Australia, a lot has changed in a year.