Is Adam Zampa Australia's greatest ever white-ball spinner?

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Zampa has been in sensational form in the ongoing T20 World Cup

The word 'greatest' is as heavy a crown as any that a sportsperson can carry as it combines parameters like overall accomplishment, consistency, longevity, big-match prowess, and passing the eye test. Australia has been the dominant force in cricket for decades, producing several all-time legends in every department.

While their spin bowling factory may not be as wide as the other areas, the Aussies have produced a few greats in each generation. Yet, amidst all the hoopla around their pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Pat Cummins over the past decade, a silent assassin in Adam Zampa, who may well be Australia's most valuable white-ball commodity, has shone in the shadows.

The 32-year-old has carried Australia's spin department in the two white-ball formats since debuting in 2016 with incredible skill and tenacity. If all his past heroics weren't enough, Zampa has enhanced his reputation as an all-time great in the Aussie ranks a step further in the ongoing T20 World Cup.

The veteran spinner has picked up 8 wickets in 3 outings at an extraordinary average of under 10 and an economy of 5.33. Zampa has also won the Player of the Match award in back-to-back games to help Australia qualify for the Super Eights.

His exploits had Australian T20I skipper Mitchell Marsh lavish the highest praise after the recent Namibia win by calling him Australia's most important player.

"If you look at his career over the last 4-5 years, he's probably our most important player. He loves the pressure, and he is bowling well at the moment, and we are lucky to have him," said Marsh at the post-match presentation.

With Adam Zampa finally receiving his due, where he ranks among Australia's rich tapestry of white-ball spinners has become a real topic of discussion. Is he Australia's greatest-ever white-ball spinner?

The only way to find that out is by breaking down Zampa's ODI and T20I accomplishments against his competitors.

Where does Zampa rank among Australian spinners in ODIs?

Adam Zampa is one of only three Australian spinners to pick up over 150 wickets in ODIs, with the other two being the late great Shane Warne and left-arm spinner Brad Hogg. Thus, it is a three-way race between the trio on who is Australia's best ODI spinner of all time.

Here is a tabular representation of their key parameters in the 50-over format that could help reveal Australia's best-ever ODI spinner.

Comparison between Australia's legendary spin trio in ODIs
Comparison between Australia's legendary spin trio in ODIs

Before deriving a conclusion from this, it must be remembered that Zampa is playing in a much higher-scoring era, thanks to the rise of T20 cricket. Nevertheless, it is crystal clear that the 32-year-old still has some work to do in longevity and numbers before surpassing Warne.

Zampa's battle with Hogg for the No.2 position is a near-dead-heat and becomes a case of choosing between right and left eye. While the leggie has more wickets in fewer games, Hogg boasts a slightly better average, directly related to his much lower economy of 4.51 compared to Zampa's 5.47.

Yet, in 24 fewer ODI games, Zampa has seven more 4+ wicket innings than Hogg, evidence of his match-winning abilities. The former left-arm chinaman bowler though was the primary spinner for two World Cup-winning Australian teams in 2003 and 2007, something even Warne and Zampa ( one each) do not have in their resumes.

Adding all of it up, Warne's place at the top of Australian spinners in ODIs remains intact, with the number of wickets, average, and economy, among others all in his favor.

However, between Zampa and Hogg, it is a stiff competition for second place, which can be considered a tie for the sake of this discussion.

Verdict: Adam Zampa is tied for second-best among Aussie spinners in ODIs.

Where does Zampa rank among Australian spinners in T20Is?

During the Namibia clash, Adam Zampa became the first Australian bowler to reach 100 T20I wickets. While no other Aussie spinner has even 50 wickets in the shortest format, Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell have 48 and 40 scalps, respectively.

A similar tabular breakdown of the key figures between the trio should reveal Australia's best-ever T20I spinner.

Comparison between Australia's three best T20I spinners.
Comparison between Australia's three best T20I spinners.

The above table demonstrates that Maxwell does not belong in the same league as Zampa and Agar despite being Australia's third most profitable T20I spinner. Between Zampa and Agar, the former triumphs in almost every major category barring the economy rate.

While all three were part of Australia's lone T20 World Cup title in 2021, Zampa was their primary spinner and leading wicket-taker with 13 wickets at an incredible average of 12.07 and an economy of under 6.

Verdict: Zampa is a runaway winner for the 'Australia's greatest T20I spinner' contest.

Final Verdict

Considering ODI and T20Is combined, Adam Zampa is without any doubt Australia's greatest white-ball spinner. While Shane Warne trumps him in ODIs, he never played a T20I game for Australia.

Brad Hogg, his other ODI competitor, played just 15 T20Is and picked up only seven wickets at a woeful average of over 53. And with Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell far away from Zampa in T20Is and even further in ODIs, Adam Zampa should rightfully assume his place as Australia's greatest white-ball spinner.

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Edited by Ankush Das
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