Ollie Pope Q&A: Rashid Khan best spinner I’ve faced, says England star
England’s Ollie Pope discusses the best bowlers he has come up against, who he’d accept being quarantined with, and his one-day ambitions as he answers your questions…
It’s been so far so good for me health-wise and, thanks to Surrey, I can still work on fitness.
They have basically emptied out our gym and sent everyone a pack of weights, so we all have our own dumbbells and plates – I’ve set up a spot in my garden and fortunately, it’s sunny! I will then use my quota of exercise outside the house for a run or a cycle ride to keep my conditioning up.
Thinking about my England team-mates who might be going stir crazy indoors, Mark Wood would be an easy shout!
But like a lot of the guys, Woody has young kids. For a lot of the lads, it presents a nice opportunity to spend time with the family as the ones who play all three formats are on the road so much.
I’m a little disappointed to miss out on a big score in Benedict Bermange’s Virtual Test for Sky Sports but the most important thing was to get the win and I know Dom Bess will be over the moon with his Man of the Match award for his nine-wicket haul.
Hopefully I can get some runs in the next Test and we can wrap up a series win.
Right, on to your questions…
How do you become a world class short leg??
I wouldn’t say I’m world class yet, I’ve had one good game in there! When Bessy and Joe Root were bowling really well in Port Elizabeth, I felt in the game every ball, especially to the right-handers. It’s all about staying confident, really. Obviously, as you’re standing so close to the bat, you have to try and take the fear out and forget about the fact you might have the ball pelted straight at you and it might hurt a fair bit. The rest of it is just staying as calm as possible. Just like when I keep wicket, I try to keep my arms as loose as I can and not tense up too much. Then it’s about reactions. I’m not going to lie – I haven’t fielded there much or done too much training there. But if you believe in yourself, it’s a position I think you can be successful in. You never know how the ball could come to you – it could be a big pull shot, a bottom edge onto the pad, or an edged drive. There are so many variables but if you expect it’s going to come your way, then you are in with a pretty good chance of taking it.
It sounds obvious but I love playing at The Oval, which I’m lucky enough to have as my home ground. I have played one Test match at Lord’s so far and a few T20s for Surrey and there’s no better feeling than turning up there, especially when there’s a packed house in. It’s a feeling you get nowhere else. There’s no better place to bat than The Oval but Lord’s really is special. I also played at the Wanderer in Johannesburg, aka The Bullring, over the winter. I think we were pretty lucky that we were 2-1 up against South Africa in the series and dominated that final Test, as the crowd were not on top of us as they might have been and there weren’t as many people there as there could have been. That was a credit to us and how we played. It was still pretty loud, though, and you could tell that when it is absolutely rocking, it can be daunting for the opposition. It’s a pretty cool stadium, with that old-school stand where the band plays.
Hi Oli, my name is George (11) from Mumbles near Swansea.
How do you stay motivated when things become difficult in training and matches?
I think you have to try and stay as level as you can through the good times and bad. You rock up in the morning and whether you have the best game of your life or the worst can depend on one ball. It’s about trying to come back with the same amount of hunger and desire each game but also treating each training session as a chance to improve, rather than just to tick a box. You have to realise cricket is not going to be exclusively fun days for you personally and make sure you enjoy your team-mates’ success and then hopefully it goes your way next time. I’m getting better at being able to brush off the bad days and move on, but the only reason I am able to do that is because I am able to watch guys who have been playing for a lot longer than I have deal with a dip in form or a run of low scores. They just keep trusting their game and what got them to this point. That will then translate out into the middle.
Do you want to play for England in all 3 formats?
Yes, 100 per cent. My red-ball stats stand out but I broke into the Surrey team first of all as a white-ball player and I still fully back my ability to be a game-changer in white-ball cricket. However, the batting line-up England have at the moment has every base covered – people who have been doing very well for a very long time. I will try to keep putting in performances and not worry too much what other people are doing, but I appreciate that the guys who have been unbelievably successful have those spots at the moment and that I might have to bid my time. If the opportunity comes, then great. If not, then I will just try to nail down my spot in the Test side.
Best bowler you’ve faced?
The best spinner I’ve probably faced is Rashid Khan. The speed his arm comes over at makes him a lot harder to pick than other spinners. There is not a massive amount of difference between his googly and regular leg-spinner which makes it harder to work out what he is going to bowl. Seamers-wise, probably Dale Steyn. He was coming back from injury when I faced him but you could still tell the skill he had. The same goes for Kagiso Rabada, who I faced this winter, when he showed what an unbelievable bowler he is. Morne Morkel, too, is not much fun when I have to face him in the nets at Surrey! The bounce and pace he gets puts him right up there.
If you had to pick 2 teammates to be quarantined with who would they be?
Sam Curran would be one. We play a lot of F1 racing games on Xbox together so he would keep me company but his chat lets him down sometimes! Then with someone like Woody, you are never going to have a dull moment.
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