Test series against India a wonderful opportunity for Ollie Pope to build on his promise

Ollie Pope is regularly hailed by the England camp as a generational talent, and senior men such as Joe Root and Ben Stokes have publicly expressed their admiration for the 23-year-old batsman. But after 15 Test innings without a half-century, the Surrey man has admitted in a virtual press conference that he is “absolutely” under pressure to keep his place.

Pope said he felt in good touch in the two-match series against New Zealand, despite top-scoring with 23: “Obviously a two-match series comes and goes pretty quickly”, he said. “It was frustrating not to kick on and make a bigger score.

“But I felt really good in the middle and sometimes that’s just how cricket goes – you can feel really good and be playing really well and then suddenly you’re out.

“So hopefully I can get myself in, kick on and get a big one. But there’s always pressure on you to perform and score the big runs. I always try to approach each match in the same way and try to give myself the best possible chance of making a big 100.”

Pope has been dealing with the inevitable criticism of his technique that comes with being an international cricketer, but he has become more relaxed in the face of the pressures of elite sport: “I think you have to get used to it. When I was first playing, people were saying I should stand a little bit further across.

“But if you stand a little bit further across and then get hit on the pad once, suddenly you’re standing too far across.

“You’ve got to be pretty stubborn in this environment – everyone’s going to have an opinion and you are going to get out. You’ve got to work out what’s best for you against these specific bowlers in these conditions.”

Pope is still nursing a thigh injury and is subsequently a doubt for the first Test, but with Ben Stokes having withdrawn from the side there is no question that England’s great hope is facing a hugely significant series in his career. The Three Lions have struggled for too long with consistently putting big scores on the board, and Pope’s average of 31.5 after 19 Tests is one of the many records that do not match the ability of the player.

After such endorsement from the board and his playing superiors, Pope will know better than anyone that this is his time to fill the run-making void left by Stokes and support his often isolated skipper Joe Root. His success, when considering England’s ever-potent seam attack in home conditions, will go a long way in deciding this mammoth Test series.