London: As he prepares for his Test debut, Ollie Pope already finds himself in the rare position for an England cricketer of having been officially commended by an Australian politician.
The 20-year-old Pope has been called into England’s squad for the second Test against India at Lord’s starting Thursday after Dawid Malan was dropped following the hosts’ 31-run win in the series opener at Edgbaston last week.
Such was the Surrey rising star’s impact while playing for the Campbelltown-Camden in Sydney grade cricket, where he scored nearly 1,000 runs, including three hundreds, club vice-president Chris Patterson, a member of the New South Wales parliament, paid formal tribute to Pope in the state legislature in March.
In addition to praising his on-field contribution, Patterson hailed Pope as an “absolute gentleman and a wonderful role model with a strong work ethic”.
Stuart Ayres, the NSW sports minister, responded by saying “it is a rare moment that a New South Wales member of Parliament speaks with such passion about an Englishman”.
– ‘Invaluable’ –
Pope, who has been in brilliant form for County Championship leaders Surrey so far this season, with 684 runs at a huge average of 85.50, including three centuries and a top score of 158 not out, credited his time in Australia for accelerating his progress as a professional cricketer.
“Obviously I did the right things at the club, and they enjoyed having me,” he told reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday.
“I was pretty surprised by it all (the tribute).
“(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.”
If Pope is slotted into Malan’s place in England’s top order, he will be batting at number four — the position of India captain Virat Kohli.
Star batsman Kohli rose to number one in the world Test rankings on the back of scoring 200 runs at Edgbaston, which included his maiden Test century on English soil.
“Yes, he’s decent!” joked Pope.
“I’m not going to look at it as me v Kohli, because that would be stupid, but it’s an exciting challenge.”
Pope found about his England call-up when national selector Ed Smith called him on Sunday.
“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.”
He added: “I called my parents for a quick chat — they were buzzing. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind day-and-a-half.
“I need to just keep riding the wave.”