Ollie Pope ‘confident’ he can captain England if Ben Stokes is ruled out with injury during Ashes… but thinks it will take ‘a lot of things to not be on the pitch’
- Ollie Pope says he’s ready to step in as England’s emergency captain if needed
- Fears Ben Stokes’ left knee won’t stand up to rigors of series
- Pope thinks he’s spent enough time watching Stokes to answer the call
Ollie Pope says he’s ready to step in as England’s emergency captain if Ben Stokes’ left knee fails to withstand the rigors of five Ashes tests in less than seven weeks.
Stokes has insisted he will play Australia once the series begins in Edgbaston on June 16.
But Pope, who began his reign as Test vice-captain with a double century against Ireland at Lord’s, believes he’s spent enough time watching Stokes go about his business to answer the call – if necessary.
“Fingers crossed for Stokesy’s body all good,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time for him not to be on the pitch even for a game day, knowing what he looks like.” But if it happened, I feel confident.
“We’ve played together as a team a lot over the last year and a bit, and he knows how he wants bowlers to operate, the kind of pitches he sets and tries to get players to hit balls in areas they don’t. I normally don’t want to intervene.
Ollie Pope says he’s ready to step in as England’s emergency captain during Ashes
Fears Ben Stokes’ left knee won’t withstand rigors of five ash tests
“So I have a pretty good understanding of how he handles things now, and if need be I can implement the same ideas.”
Pope captained Surrey once, in a league game against Glamorgan in 2021, and captained England twice over the winter in warm-up games. And he says he’s learned to be more than Stokes’ right-hand man.
“It is a great honor to be vice-captain of your country, especially in Test cricket,” he said. “Compared to what I was doing before, it doesn’t make a big difference. I will give my opinion and challenge Stokesy when he needs to.
“We’re going to be tested in the Ashes, so it’s not always about agreeing with him: it’s about providing a different opinion to ponder in his mind as well.” He’s got a pretty clear vision and he’s got 15 guys in that dressing room who know our roles now, so that’s helpful for everyone.
Whether or not Pope is to lead England this summer, he will still face the challenge of putting a miserable 2021-22 Ashes streak behind him, when he averaged 11.
“I put a lot of hard work into my game,” he said. “It was my first time in Australia, and I feel like a different player, mentally and technically, to take on the challenge of an Ashes series.”
“I’m not happy with the way I played in Australia last time. It’s pretty obvious. But I know how the bowlers are going to challenge me, what they look like as bowlers, their paces, their angles and all that, so it’s always a plus to have faced them once before.