Byron battles help Zampa prep for T20 Cup

Adam Zampa has learned to adapt and thrive in difficult times ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Adam Zampa has learned to adapt and thrive in difficult times ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Adam Zampa starts the Twenty20 World Cup as Australia's most adaptable cricketer, having weathered the "s***storm" that was returning home in April then enlisting Byron Bay teenage batters to prepare for this tournament.

Zampa relocated to his home state of NSW at the end of the 2019-20 season, shifting to the Byron Bay Hinterland.

The ensuing 18 months have been eventful, eye-opening, often exhausting and studded with sliding-doors moments.

A prime example is Zampa's path to Australia's World Cup opener on October 23, which could easily have been shared with Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The 29-year-old, who fled India during the first phase of this year's pandemic-affected IPL, was keen to play despite reports otherwise but Bangalore replaced him with Sri Lankan legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga.

Local COVID-19 restrictions meant Zampa was unable to train with NSW teammates in Sydney or make the two-hour trip to Cricket Australia's elite facility in Brisbane.

So the tweaker, having claimed the scalp of Indian maestro Virat Kohli a world-record seven times in international white-ball cricket, went back to basics.

"There were some Northern Rivers academy under-19 kids I bowled to. It was pretty cool," Zampa told AAP.

"Turf wicket.

"Not so much chirp. If they got a hold of one they'd get into me a little bit but if I spun one past them or something, they'd blame the wicket. It was good fun.

"It was really nice that people were willing to do that. It kind of took me back to being a young country cricketer. I remember being 15 or 16 and having pretty similar sessions.

"I had to back my own preparation and I feel like my last six weeks were better than my preparation for any other tour during COVID times.

"Just the mental break that I got but also I concentrated on making sure that my body was in good shape. I've had some shoulder issues which I'm pretty well on top of now."

Zampa, a vegan who has dipped his toe into breathing exercises thanks to fellow Byron Bay local Pat Rafter, generally does not attract paparazzi's attention as much as some of the area's residents.

That changed when Scott Morrison issued a blanket ban on returning travellers from coronavirus-ravaged India in late April as Zampa and good mate Kane Richardson rushed home, via Qatar.

Making the "tough decision" to leave the IPL on their own accord, prior to the T20 tournament shutting down, meant the duo avoided the indirect and longer journey taken by the likes of Pat Cummins and David Warner.

But the risk of being stranded was real, with their last-minute border crossing triggering a level of political interest in cricketers that hasn't otherwise been reached since the Cape Town cheating scandal.

"Getting a flight just in time, we were pretty lucky," Zampa said.

"It was a bit of a s***storm.

"I remember people saying to us they didn't believe that Australia would lock out Australian citizens from their country then the next day, that happening.

"It was a bit bizarre. Kane and I made the decision together, thinking it was the best idea for us to get home."

Zampa recalled hopping on last year's charter plane to England after the sport's global COVID-19 stoppage, full of excitement to resume playing and confident a fortnight in quarantine would not be a major issue.

The perspective of Australia's most prolific T20 bowler, with 52 scalps from 50 internationals, changed over the course of multiple stints in quarantine, lockdown and biosecurity bubbles.

"I don't know how many more times I'd actually be able to do it," he said.

Balcony exercise and TV shows Squid Game and Breaking Bad helped Zampa navigate a six-day quarantine stint in the UAE ahead of the T20 World Cup relatively easily as neighbour Matthew Wade whacked plastic golf balls at the wall.

Time was harder to pass in August during a fortnight of quarantine in Adelaide after Australia's defeat-laden T20 tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh.

"We had a rough time as a team and I think we all actually needed a little bit of a physical and mental break," Zampa said.

"I went and spent every minute I possibly could just around home."

Zampa, whose spin partnership with Ashton Agar will be crucial on what are expected to be low-scoring pitches, is now refreshed, ready and raring to collect the one piece of silverware that has eluded Australia's men's side.

"I'd love nothing more than to win the World Cup. Anything less will be a disappointment," he said.

Australian Associated Press