Adam Zampa: The self-aware non-alpha on top of his game

He has carried Australia's attack in the face of vulnerability and hidden many of its flaws

What are you made of? How will you come back from a blow? Are you just gonna hunker down here? Or are you gonna come back hard? As hard as they are coming at you?
Because the real heft of the sport is in its individual battles, cricket asks its practitioners these questions pointedly. It asks these questions especially often of wristspinners. Who are you when there is nowhere to hide? You don't have a fast bouncer to put your opponent on the back foot or a quick yorker to surprise them with. Someone has just smacked you for repeated boundaries, and you're really going to toss another ball up at him out of the back of your hand? Eeesh. Good luck.
When you watch a wristspinner at the top of their mark and a batter has started shellacking them, what you are watching is vulnerability.
Adam Zampa has known this feeling. In one match at Centurion in September, there was maybe nothing but this feeling. In that game, he disappeared for 113 runs, took zero wickets - and became the owner, at the time, of the worst figures in men's one-dayers' 4600-something match history. Australia would go on to lose that series 3-2. Zampa's economy rate across the series would be 7.
What happens next, though, is the important bit, because what happens next reveals how Zampa tends to respond to all those big questions cricket throws at wristspinners, and maybe more importantly, how the Australia team believes Zampa is going to respond. Instead of pushing Zampa to the fringes, they double down on him. Ashton Agar, the other spinner whom they'd pinned in for the World Cup is injured. Though they have other spinners to choose as his replacement, they pick batter Marnus Labuschagne instead.
Uhhh, doesn't Zampa need back up? It's a tournament in India. Shouldn't there be another frontline spinner there at least? It's not been that long since Centurion.
"Nah, our boy's got it."
If you were an opposition coach or batting strategist at this World Cup, you'd see a big target on Zampa's back, because who better to attack? Before this tournament began, Mitchell Starc was shaping to be one of the greatest World Cup bowlers ever. The prospect of taking Josh Hazlewood down is like trying to bash up a granite wall with a wooden mallet. Pat Cummins? There are softer spots. You'd go after Zampa, because if Australia lose those middle overs, they've got to shift their bowling plans around.
Zampa has in public said he never quite saw it that way.
"[Coach] Andrew McDonald said, you know, 'Ash Agar, he's not going to be right for the World Cup. You're going to be the only spinner'. Instead of thinking about it as responsibility I said to him: 'you guys must think I'm pretty good if you think I can do the job by myself'."
We are now getting to the heart of who Zampa is, because when you watch him at the top of his mark when a batter has started shellacking him, it begins to feel as if we are in unusual territory. Maybe what we are watching here is not vulnerability.
"I look around at all the wristspinners around the world, from Kuldeep Yadav, Wanindu Hasaranga, Rashid Khan and all those guys - I probably look at myself and go out of all those bowlers, I'm the least skilful," he recently said in an interview with Bharat Sundaresan.
What Zampa has is not Rashid's wicked legbreak, or Hasaranga's spectacular googly, but a will to stay in the fight, a champion chess player's determination to root out the opponent's weaknesses, and an ability to adjust to the shot the batter is about to play.
Zampa described his performance against England as the "most satisfying", but his best performance arguably came against New Zealand in Dharamsala, where seeing Daryl Mitchell coming down the track on 50-odd, having hit a hundred against the best attack in the tournament in the past week, Zampa slipped in a rapid slider and had him caught at long-on.
Later in the match, he'd have Tom Latham caught reverse sweeping with a ball that was slow through the air. When in his final over, Mitchell Santner hit the first ball for six, Zampa looped it beautifully two balls later: flight, dip, spin, the batter mis-hitting it, the fielder at the boundary gobbling it up. Are you watching, cricket?
When he was asked what he did in that week in Dharamsala, was a "recluse" by his own reckoning. He "wore a few robes" and did a trek into the Himalayas. Perhaps in the hyper-macho, uber-competitive world of elite athletes, going golfing is the thing you do. Maybe someone falls off a golf cart and gets a concussion. Boys will be boys.
But if you're in the foothills of the most majestic mountain range on the planet, maybe walking up to get a better view of them is actually not a weird-person move. Such is the warped world of men's sport that you can do the sane thing and get called weird.
Zampa has a manual coffee grinder he carries around, a tender relationship with Marcus Stoinis, a pretty good reading of opposition batters, and an aggressively non-Alpha Male energy. Oh, also a tournament-high 22 wickets at this World Cup, which to be very honest, has carried this attack and hidden many of its flaws.
As we arrive at the knockouts, who are you backing when cricket asks all of those tough questions? It feels like Australia had figured it out months ago. Zampa does not have to project strength; he just knows what he is about.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is a writer at ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf