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Feature

Another World Cup, another bagful of wickets for 'Pretty Good' Zampa

He finished second on the wickets charts in the 2021 and 2023 tournaments, and he's now seeking a third trophy to add to his thigh tattoo

Melinda Farrell
20-Jun-2024
Adam Zampa has his swag on, as always, ICC T20 World Cup 2024, Antigua, June 18, 2024

Adam Zampa has 60 wickets in ODI and T20 World Cups at an average of 19.18  •  ICC/Getty Images

If you're after a little pizazz in your Australian media content, Adam Zampa is your go-to man.
The ICC and Cricket Australia know this only too well. Video packages featuring everything from Zampa competing in a go-kart race in the rural town of Bangalow to his fashion accessory of the day provide quirky amusement on social media.
His loud shirts, the occasional hair band, those funky sunglasses, the veganism he practices, the second-hand Doc Marten boots he matches with his training gear, his life on the farm and his love of animals, the various tattoos he sports, that obsession with 'real' coffee, the robed figure eschewing golf and hanging out in Dharamsala; all brushstrokes painting a portrait of a unique and colourful character, comfortable to walk his own path, who also happens to be one of the best white-ball spinners in the world.
It's easy to be infatuated by Australia's fast bowlers; they're a swoony swirl of high-octane pace, sexy swing and destructive seam delivered by a phalanx of six-foot-something, athletic alpha males (we'll forgive Nathan Ellis for being five-foot-nine).
Nathan Lyon would probably empathise. More than a decade after his international debut, Australia's premier Test spinner is still often an addendum to discussions about Australia's formidable attack.
Like Lyon, Zampa's role in Australia's bowling mix can be understated. But since he established himself in the national side in 2019, after three years in and out of the squad, he has quietly gone about taking wickets and playing a crucial role in winning matches and tournaments.
Take the 2021 Men's T20 World Cup in the UAE. Zampa was Australia's leading wicket-taker, and equal second overall, as Aaron Finch's side marched to victory for the first time in the format. He netted a maiden T20I five-wicket haul and posted his best bowling figures when he took 5 for 19 against Bangladesh in the group stage.
Fast-forward to Australia's ODI World Cup triumph in India last year, in which Zampa was Australia's sole specialist spinner. That's right, their only tweaker in India. Such was Australia's faith in the blonde leggie that part-time spinners could fill any gaps around him and the quicks. It was justified; as he again topped Australia's wicket-taking chart, and again finished second overall, just one shy of Mohammed Shami. His 23 wickets in 11 matches were the most ever taken by an Australia spinner in a World Cup and equalled Muthiah Muralidaran's record for all spinners in the tournament's history.
He is once more leading Australia's wicket tally with nine as they begin their Super Eight campaign against Bangladesh - equal third overall but that may change if Mitchell Marsh's men go through to the knockouts.
Zampa's tendency to camp out under the radar is at least partly due to Cricket Australia's 2018 broadcast deal with Fox Sports, which drove all home limited-overs internationals behind a paywall just at the time he was entering the spotlight. In the last rights cycle, ICC tournaments were shown on the Nine Network's free-to-air channels, but casual Australian cricket fans rarely invest in overseas white-ball cricket in the midst of the various football codes' seasons.
The current tournament has gone further underground, shown exclusively on the subscription streaming service Amazon Prime. Should Zamp-tastic performances help Australia to a second T20 World Cup trophy, most sports fans back home will only see highlights clips.
But his value is not unappreciated by his teammates or captain. In February this year, Marsh singled out Zampa, above all Australia's fast bowlers and power-hitters, as the key to their success.
"Zamps is by far our most important bowler and probably our most important player in this team," Marsh said, during Australia's home series against West Indies.
There are spinners who turn the ball more and create greater mystery, but Zampa's diminutive frame is topped by a wily cricket head. His controlled lengths and flatter, faster deliveries are bread and butter, while the googly is a frequent and potent weapon.
Only Shane Warne has taken more international wickets for Australia in limited-overs cricket; 291 to Zampa's 270 at a similar average of just a tick under 26. Zampa is sixth on the overall list of ODI and T20I wicket-takers for his country and all those above him have long since retired. At the age of 32 he has plenty of time to climb that ladder.
Jasprit Bumrah (18.31) is the only bowler playing this tournament to have taken at least 50 wickets in all World Cups at a better average than Zampa, whose 60 wickets have come at 19.18.
One number, however, means a lot more to Zampa than this, and it's permanently etched on his skin. Not in numeric form, of course; that would be too predictable. It's on the front of his right thigh, which he cheerfully reveals by pulling up his shorts leg after a sweaty training session at the Antigua Recreation Ground. A tattooed image of Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David looks up, holding the ODI and T20 World Cups, one in each hand. Written underneath is his catchphrase: Pretty Good.
If Zampa adds a third World Cup trophy to his name, he'll have to find a creative way to ink it into the existing design. But that shouldn't be a problem.
For Zampa is all quirk with plenty of substance. He's also Pretty Good.

Melinda Farrell is a journalist and broadcaster