Ollie Pope, who earlier this month was named deputy to Ben Stokes for the one-off Test against Ireland and The Ashes, has asserted that he is ‘ready’ to step up and captain the side should there be availability concerns with Stokes, who’s recovering from multiple injuries and had to exit the Indian Premier League (IPL) early having made just two appearances.
It was not too long ago that Pope’s place in the Test side was under the scanner, but consistent showings at No.3 — 791 runs @ 41.63 — saw the 25-year-old get elevated to vice-captain. It was a surprising call indeed, considering Pope notably does not captain his county side Surrey as well, with Rory Burns taking up leadership duties there.
Pope wants Stokes to be fit for the entirety of the summer but is confident he can step up in the incumbent’s absence, having studied the former closely over the past 12 months.
"Everyone wants to see Stokesy play all six Tests so fingers crossed his body is all good and he can do that. But if it is the case [that I captain] then I feel [ready],” Pope told Sky Sports.
“It is a big step up from doing it in warm-up games but I have had a bit of experience with it.”
"I have been watching Stokesy fairly closely with how he goes about his captaincy. There is only one Ben Stokes. I wouldn't try to be him but if called upon I feel confident I can relay the same messages to the guys.
"The team has been together for a long time and guys know what their roles are in the team so it's about relaying the messages and keeping the positive attitude."
Pope admitted that being named vice-captain is a ‘big honour’ but attested that the ‘VC’ label does not change anything for him.
"It's a big honour. I was excited to find out and it is a nice thing to have, gives you that extra bit of confidence that you are being backed by management and team-mates.
"It doesn't really change anything for me. I've tried to help out Stokesy wherever I can, not that he needs it, if I have got any ideas and we obviously have some great guys to call upon with amazing experience, so those guys will be great to lean on.”
The Three Lions have lost just two Tests under the full-time leadership of Stokes, and are, arguably, currently the most in-form, rampant red-ball side in the world. But awaiting them is their toughest Test yet: a two-month long visit from arch-rivals Australia.
Pope acknowledged the enormity of the Ashes but insisted that England will start favorites, and asserted that there’s no reason why the Three Lions cannot extend their winning streak.
"An Ashes series is bigger than any series we play, there is no hiding behind that. I'd like to think that in England we are favourites,” Pope said.
"As long as we can keep relaying those positive messages to the group that is the main thing for us. I have 100 per cent confidence we can continue that run of form."
The 2023 Ashes will kick-off on June 16th at Edgbaston. Prior to that, England will play a one-off Test against Ireland at Lord’s, starting June 1.