Australian internationals Ashleigh Gardner and Adam Zampa have both expressed their excitement at securing their places in the Birmingham Phoenix men’s and women’s squads, respectively, for the inaugural season of The Hundred.
The experienced Aussie duo were named alongside six players from the home Warwickshire and Worcestershire squads yesterday, and they are set to play a lead role in helping the Phoenix rise in 2021.
“It’s something that’s really excited to be involved in as it’s never been done before,” said the ICC women’s T20 World Cup winner Gardner, speaking exclusively to edgbaston.com.
“Obviously T20 cricket was quite different 10 years ago and people didn’t think that it would take off and now we see the 100-ball competition where every ball counts and there’s so many different rules, which I need to wrap my head around.”Ashleigh Gardner
“The fact a bowler can bowl 10 balls in a row, is the tactic that I think is the most intriguing,” said leg-spinner Zampa. “Having the best death bowler to bowl the final 10 balls of an innings is a great innovation.”
“The most exciting thing is that you get to go as hard as you can from as early as you can,” added Gardner. “It can obviously go both ways and with me being an attacking batter and it won’t always come off.”
Zampa and Gardner will arrive at Edgbaston with a few familiar faces already announced in the Birmingham Phoenix squads.
“I’ve known our Head Coach Andrew [McDonald] for 10 years,” said Zampa. “He actually played at South Australia with me and is now involved with the Australia team.
“He’s a really good guy and I really like his coaching philosophies as well. I’m really excited to play under Andrew, but with Mo as captain it’s going to be really cool. We got on like a house on fire at Royal Challengers Bangalore last month, plus there’s also Woakesy. I haven’t played with him but have come up against him quite a bit and he’s excellent cricketer and an excellent bloke.”
Gardner is also looking forward to working with a familiar face in women’s team Head Coach Ben Sawyer, who has led her franchise Sydney Sixers in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and is an assistant coach with the Australia team.
“Ben is a big reason as to why I’ve signed for Birmingham,” she said. “He’s been my coach for every year of the WBBL and I like the way and his style of coaching. He’s quite a relaxed character and I think you need that in a coach sometimes when things get pretty heated.”
The two Australians have contrasting experiences of the Phoenix’s home with Zampa having played in prime ICC global tournaments at Edgbaston with Gardner yet to experience the iconic venue and the Edgbaston roar.
“I really love the culture of Birmingham and there’s some perky little places that I’m forward to returning to. As a touring player you always try and keep clear of the Eric Hollies Stand but having that atmosphere behind us will be brilliant.”Adam Zampa
Gardner added: “I’ve heard great things about the venue and how the crowd cheer on the home team, which will be great to have.”
Whilst relishing their roles with Birmingham Phoenix, Zampa and Gardner are both acutely aware of what The Hundred could do for English cricket, having seen substantial growth in Australia following the launch of the BBL and WBBL.
“We’ve seen here in Australia the growth that has happened with young females wanting to play cricket,” said Gardner. “Having role models who they can look up to is great and it’s something that’s really exciting to be involved in.”
Zampa said: “Whenever you play a BBL game, the number of children around with their replica shirts on, screaming out their favourite players’ names is incredible, and I think we’ll see that in The Hundred. The next generation are very important and we need to support that development.”
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