Ollie Pope in a press conference before the Lord's Test against India © Getty Images
Ollie Pope in a press conference before the Lord’s Test against India © Getty Images

Ollie Pope, 20, set to make debut in the Lord’s Test between India and England, had earned accolades from an unusual source — a New South Wales MP! Pope played for Campbelltown-Camden Club in Sydney Grade Cricket, where he scored nearly 1,000 runs with three hundreds. Chris Patterson, vice-President of the club, had paid formal tribute to Pope in the state legislature in March, calling him an “absolute gentleman and a wonderful role model with a strong work ethic”.

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NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres responded with the words “it is a rare moment that a New South Wales member of Parliament speaks with such passion about an Englishman”.

Pope credited his stint for the club for his progress as a professional: ”Obviously I did the right things at the club, and they enjoyed having me. I was pretty surprised by it all … It’s a massive thing for a young lad to do, especially when you’re just finding your way in the game.

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“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.”

Pope has replaced Dawid Malan, England’s No. 4 batsman — also the position where Virat Kohli bats. When asked of his feelings regarding ‘sharing’ a position, Pope joked ”yes, he’s decent!” He obviously dismissed any comparison: ”I’m not going to look at it as me vs Kohli, because that would be stupid, but it’s an exciting challenge.”

Pope also recalled the moment when national selector Ed Smith called him: ”I was on the way to play for Surrey in a T20 at Essex. 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.

“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.”

(with inputs from AFP)