In 2016, when India were touring Australia, George Bailey reckoned the canary yellow floppy hat would become as popular as the baggy green. Three years later, on the eve of the second ODI in Nagpur, the floppy hat was a striking feature during Australia's training session. Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja all donned it on a blazing hot Monday afternoon at the VCA Stadium. Heck, even Matthew Hayden, who was overseeing the training along with his old friend Justin Langer, couldn't resist showing it off.
But nobody carried the floppy with the kind of strut Adam Zampa did when he walked in and then out of the pre-match press conference. Zampa's social media posts - ranging from memes to exchanging Hindi cuss words with his girlfriend - are laced with similar swagger too. But it wasn't really on display the last time he toured India, in 2017.
"I knew that I could hit a six off him anytime I wanted to." That was Hardik Pandya's big statement about the legspinner after smashing him for three successive sixes in Chennai.
Two years later, Zampa has established himself as a first-choice pick in Australia's ODI XI, having developed excellent control over his lines, lengths and variations. He is now adept at performing the dual responsibility of taking wickets as well as throttling the batsmen. Just ask Virat Kohli, whom Zampa has dismissed four times in nine innings at the international level. Zampa hasn't dismissed any other batsman more than twice.
Though it's yet to reach the proportions of James Anderson v Kohli or Pat Cummins v Kohli, this duel has added some extra spice to the series. In the Brisbane T20I in November last year, he shackled Kohli by attacking the stumps. Kohli then aimed to manufacture something: a weak slog-sweep resulted in an inside edge to midwicket before he swatted at a topspinner to only splice a catch at short third man.
Then, in the Visakhapatnam T20I last month, Zampa tied down Kohli by targeting the stumps and then reeled him in with the drift.
In the first ODI in Hyderabad, Kohli latched on to width outside off and creamed Zampa for a brace of boundaries. But the bowler bounced back with a skidder that threatened the stumps and pinned Kohli lbw. All told, in the ODI series opener in Hyderabad, off the six balls he bowled on the stumps to Kohli, he gave away just six runs while also claiming the prize scalp.
"From the IPL experience and seeing these guys play - nothing like in my variety of wrong'uns - it's about the best way to bowl to these batsmen," Zampa said. "Particularly in ODI cricket, most legspinners are attacking the stumps and that's my strength too. I feel like when I get away from the stumps, guys like Virat and the other night [Kedar] Jadhav [hit me]. I got frustrated and bowled wide of the stumps and that is when the damage happens. It's about staying away from their strengths."
If you thought Zampa was bragging about executing his plans and nabbing Kohli four times, not quite. He rather downplayed it, insisting he needed to sustain the pressure against the other middle-order batsmen as well.
"It's nice to get players like that [Kohli] out, I thought the best one was the T20 here [Visakhapatnam] and the first match in Brisbane," Zampa said. "I thought they were big wickets given the situation of the match and we ended up winning the game. Getting Virat is one thing, he was in at that time and it was big wicket, but then you also have to think about getting [MS] Dhoni out and Rohit [Sharma] out. Virat is a big wicket, but there are six or seven big wickets in the Indian team."
In Hyderabad, whenever Zampa dangled a wide legbreak, Jadhav manufactured additional swinging room and drove him inside-out over extra cover. He doesn't give the ball a big rip as Kuldeep Yadav does, but having started his career as a seamer, Zampa has the ability to get the ball to skid off the surface. And it makes sense to attack the stumps as opposed to pushing the ball wider when you can generate that extra pace off the pitch.
Zampa has other tricks up his sleeve as well, thanks to his stints in the BBL, the CPL, the T20 Blast and the IPL. In this season's Big Bash final, he knocked over Mackenzie Harvey with a delightful wrong'un that dipped on the Melbourne Renegades batsman. He can also bowl a flipper. After the second T20I in Bengaluru, Glenn Maxwell, Zampa's captain at Melbourne Stars, pointed out that bowling on the easy-paced hit-through-the-line pitch in Essex had transformed him into a more versatile bowler.
That's a beauty from Adam Zampa pic.twitter.com/Gcehh08Ktk— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) February 17, 2019
"He had a county stint at Essex. And to bowl there [Chelmsford], it's smaller than this [M Chinnaswamy Stadium]," Maxwell had said. "He's consistently bowling at smaller and flatter wickets and to try and be successful he has obviously had to come out with these different defensive mechanisms to get [batsmen] out and still be successful.
"He's an amazing bowler, always trying to get better, [finding] ways to improve his game. He hasn't got the big-turning leggie nor is a mystery spinner like a Rashid Khan or a Sandeep [Lamichhane] but he is a successful bowler and he does his craft so well. It's so hard to get on top of him as a batter. It doesn't matter if [the batsman has] been batting for 18-20 balls; he still manages to get him off strike and keep him down. And credit to him, he keeps growing as a player. I've had a pleasure of playing with him at the Stars all season, and just see him go from different conditions in every game and continue to get better and better."
Zampa conceded that he was "low on confidence" the last time he was in India two years ago, and that even now they would have studied his modus operandi and prepared for him, but with the swag back in his bowling, he's not going to lose any sleep over a bad performance and that kind of freedom only ever helps a player move in one direction: up.