‘Future England Captain’ tag not on Ollie Pope’s thoughts as he prioritises No. 3 function

“Cheers Broady!” beamed Ollie Pope, smiling from ear to ear, cheeks tinged with a little bit of embarrassment.

Moments earlier than he sits down for Friday’s media engagement on the workforce resort, Pope is knowledgeable of the phrases of Stuart Broad, who had been in that chair 5 minutes earlier.

“I think Pope is a great leader in the group, actually,” Broad stated after Pope captained an England warm-up match for the second time in three months, this time performing as Ben Stokes’ understudy in Hamilton towards a New Zealand XI, after a primary go in Abu Dhabi towards England Lions forward of the Pakistan collection.

“He’s grown so much in the last year, the way he operates, the confidence and responsibility he’s been given. He speaks really well in the group, he’s got a great cricket mind. There’s no doubt you can see him as a future England captain.

“He’s been most likely probably the most spectacular rising cricketer within the group that I’ve seen over the past 12 months. From the place his confidence was to the place he’s now. How Popey has grown as a personality may be very spectacular.”

There aren’t many better to gauge what makes a good Test captain given Broad has played under six of them across his 16 years and 159 caps at this level. The 36-year old was covertly given vice-captain duties last summer and came close to stepping up for the main job at Headingley against New Zealand when Stokes was battling with an illness. As such, his lauding of Pope as one in waiting carries considerable weight.

Pope, while appreciating the compliment, is in no rush to get to that point. Nor does he quite regard himself as a FEC (Future England Captain). His only previous dalliance with captaincy in professional cricket came in September 2021, when standing in for Rory Burns for Surrey’s County Championship match against Glamorgan. Beyond that were games at the helm for Surrey under-17s and Cranleigh School.

“I do not essentially see that. I’m going to maintain growing my cricket mind,” Pope said. “If that chance got here up sooner or later I’ll be certain I can study as a lot as doable earlier than then.

“But at the same time, I realise I’ve got a big job at number three to keep doing. If I can keep impressing there who knows what the future holds. But I’ll keep learning and developing as an all-round cricketer as much as I can. If that happens (becoming England captain), great. If not, that’s okay.”

There’s little question Pope’s new dwelling at quantity three provides to the overriding sense of maturity across the 25-year outdated. Even the acquisition of the function spoke of a child eager to fast-track himself to seniority: calling up Stokes not lengthy after the allrounder had been made Test captain and all however demanding the one accessible slot within the batting order.

“I can see cricket from a bit more perspective. It’s still my priority, I’m not one of those players who’ve had kids and seen a new side of things. It’s more that I’ve allowed the pressure to be taken off a little bit and trust you can bounce back after some low performances.”

Ollie Pope

Results, up to now, have been sound, averaging 40.82 – above the profession fee of 32.56 – from 10 Tests at first drop, with two of his three centuries thus far. It is evident from these numbers we’re nonetheless on the early stage of all this with Pope, as we’re with the Test aspect beneath Brendon McCullum.

For a batter who had the whiff of arrested improvement on the highest degree in his first 23 appearances, starting with a wide-eyed debut at Lord’s in 2018 towards India aged 20, this part of his profession has been considerably overdue. It is one thing Pope acknowledges, not least as a result of he recognises how conducive the atmosphere has been to his evolution right into a senior member of the altering room after these early rising pains.

“I think that tough (period) however long it was – and it felt like a long time – allowed me to get to where I am now. We’ve got this great mindset as a team at the minute and as a batting unit we’re not fearing getting out and I think we spent too long worrying about our techniques and worrying about how the bowler is going to get us out rather than work and score runs.

“That’s most likely displaying in the way in which we’re enjoying on the minute with our strike charges and issues like that. But it is also permitting us to really feel like it’s our workforce and cease spending time dwelling on too many negatives. That’s come down from the highest: Stokesy and Baz have been prime drawer when it comes to simplifying Test cricket for us all.”

Pope admits to being more robust emotionally, too. Back in the pandemic summer of 2020, he was the first cricketer to open up about the “intense and difficult” bio-secure bubbles. It was a welcome admission, especially as many of his team-mates felt the same but had not yet articulated as much.

“I’m not that skilled now – I’m solely 25 – however I’ll be capable of cope with that loads higher now. I suppose Pakistan was the same atmosphere when it comes to you are not likely allowed to get out of the resort. But the way in which we cope with it as a workforce now’s loads higher.

“We ended up playing X-box and playing cricket and then spending too much time doing those two things, probably, for that whole summer. It was so hard to switch off and I let my cricket performance affect the mood I’m in as a person, which is a pretty bad way to be, I think, especially at this level when there’s so much pressure on.

“I can see cricket from a bit extra perspective. It’s nonetheless my precedence, I’m not a kind of gamers who’ve had children and seen a brand new aspect of issues. It’s extra that I’ve allowed the stress to be taken off a little bit bit and belief you’ll be able to bounce again after some low performances. If I used to be to return into that Covid bubble then I’d cope with it loads higher than I essentially have performed or did do prior to now.”

Focus, for now, will be squarely on batting. The distraction of wicketkeeping, which crept up on him on the previous tour of Pakistan when Ben Foakes fell ill on the morning of the first Test, and carried over into the second Test for tactical reasons, looks to have come to an end. Unless there is another spanner in the works, which was the case back on the 2019 tour here when Pope took the gloves in Hamilton after Jos Buttler broke a finger. He has his own with him this time, having borrowed Foakes’ in Rawalpindi and Multan.

The most intriguing aspect of the next two weeks will be how New Zealand approach these two Tests, starting in Mount Maunganui on Thursday. They were the first to be stung by the new era at the start of the last English summer, whitewashed in emphatic fashion. Pope, like the rest, expect a reaction. Perhaps even a replication of the fast scoring, particularly with Tim Southee exhibiting some McCullum-like qualities in the early days of his Test captaincy.

“I’m to see that: see in the event that they modify, how they play, barely. But clearly on the similar time that collection in the summertime we received three-nil however in every of these Test matches there have been factors that it may have gone both approach in order that they’ll most likely see it from that perspective they usually’ll follow what they do effectively and possibly belief what they do in their very own situations.

“It’s exciting, we’ve sort of seen glimpses of the way we play going to other teams at points and so it’ll be interesting to see if anything that we’ve done has rubbed off on them.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an affiliate editor at ESPNcricinfo

Source web site: www.espncricinfo.com

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