Pope bats away antipodean accolade ahead of England Test debut
The 20-year-old is thoroughly recommended for a Lord’s debut – by his friends in Australia
Ollie Pope already has an extraordinary endorsement on his CV as he prepares for a Lord’s debut this week.
Pope, set to win England’s 687th Test cap against India at the age of just 20, is in a minority of one who can boast – although that does not appear to be in his modest nature – a commendation in Australian parliament.
The Surrey youngster so entirely won over his hosts Campbelltown-Camden in Sydney grade cricket last winter, not just with his near 1,000 runs but his amenable behaviour, that club vice-president Chris Patterson used his offices as an MP to thank him in a New South Wales parliamentary speech.
As Pope tries to make the right impression with a less exacting crowd in the second Specsavers Test at Lord’s – Surrey-Middlesex rivalries can surely be set aside in the national cause – he can be reassured he has a decent track record so far.
In addition to the wicketkeeper-batsman’s record-breaking success for his Australian club, Patterson praised “an absolute gentleman and wonderful role model”.
Five months on, England’s new prospect sought to deflect his antipodean accolade, but does believe the venture down under helped to accelerate his progress in a breakthrough season back home.
“Obviously I did the right things at the club, and they enjoyed having me,” he said.
Walking into Lord’s Test week like... pic.twitter.com/F7rnXR0xzD— Jonny Bairstow (@jbairstow21) August 7, 2018
“I was pretty surprised by it all.
“(But) it’s a massive thing for a young lad to do, especially when you’re just finding your way in the game. Being on your own two feet and getting to know your strengths and weaknesses, learning from your dismissals and the games you play well in.
“I did learn to fend for myself a bit more. It was a pretty invaluable experience.”
He is about to need it all on his biggest stage – and one trap he will not be suckered into, as he prepares to bat at number four for his country, is daring to compare himself just yet with his likely opposite number.
India captain Virat Kohli, such a prolific batsman around the world, proved himself in England for the first time with 200 runs in his team’s 31-run defeat as England took a 1-0 series lead at Edgbaston.
“Yes, he’s decent!” said Pope.
“I’m not going to look at it as me v Kohli, because that would be stupid, but it’s an exciting challenge.”
It is one few could have envisaged until Pope began the runscoring spree which has so far brought him 684 at an average of 85.5 this season, less than a year after his county championship debut.
It meant he could just about get his head round Sunday morning’s phone call from national selector Ed Smith to tell him he had been called into England’s Test squad.
“I was on the way to play for Surrey in a T20 at Essex,” Pope said.
“I had a flat tyre the day before, so had to get a lift with a mate.
“I was in the car on my own and saw Ed Smith’s name pop up, and had an idea what it may be.
“From that moment I hardly remember the conversation, just that it was a good one.”
Pope then quickly rang his nearest and dearest, and an old chum or two back in Sydney of course, before he began visualising how to make a success of his mission improbable.
“I called my parents for a quick chat – they were buzzing,” he said.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind day-and-a-half.
“I need to just keep riding the wave.”