Lloyd Pope would vouch for how cricket is a great leveller. Just 10 days ago against India, he dropped two sitters and bowled all of three overs for 22 in a game Australia were overwhelmed. Soon after the game, Pope’s parents walked towards the dressing room to comfort their disconsolate son, who was in tears. Pope admitted to being disappointed then.
Two matches later, he couldn’t quite register that he was perhaps going to be the most googled cricketer in Australia. “I’m still shaking. Quite unbelievable, isn’t it? It’s awesome to be going to the semi-final,” he said after the match.
Pope could hardly put words to his thoughts as he spoke to the media shortly after breaking his team-mate Jason Ralston’s record for the best figures at an Under-19 World Cup. Ralston’s record of 7 for 15, achieved against Papua New Guinea, didn’t even last a week. Pope went one better, taking 8 for 35 in a spell of legbreaks for the ages.
Pope is a man of few words, but if you can turn in spells like that, one that England are unlikely to forget anytime soon, he wouldn’t need to talk much. No sooner had the last wicket been picked, Pope roared in exult even as his mates ruffled his hair. As he led the team off the field, there was a hint of tear in his eyes. After he recovered from the happy tears, he was taken aback.
Pope has seldom had so many cameras panned on him. Talking on television after the match was a first. “It’s quite different. It’s weird to have cameras shoved into your face straight after it,” he said with a shy smile. “It’s different. Like when I play club cricket, your team-mates congratulate you, maybe when I’m home the parents say ‘well done’. So yeah, this feels weird.”
Pope was so overwhelmed that he wasn’t even going to take credit for his wickets. “It was weird that so many wickets were taken for barely any runs,” he said. “Pretty good pitch to bowl spin on, but you could score runs too.”
There was one point in England’s chase when Jason Sangha contemplated taking Pope out of the attack and bring in an offspinner against two left-handers Jack Davies and Euan Woods. England were still in it, being five down. Australia didn’t scent the possibility of an upset then. Pope said he quietly put a word in Sangha’s ear about wanting to continue. “He wanted to bring in an offie to the left-handers, I talked a little,” Pope started, and then had a shy smile, looking away towards his captain who was standing by the side.
It was even put to him if he demanded to continue bowling. “Demand is a strong word,” he laughed. “I just love bowling. It’s an unreal experience. I always love playing for my country whether I’m taking wickets or not, so going out there and doing it with some really good mates was an awesome experience.”
Pope stands at over six feet tall. He started wanting to be a fast bowler, until his father suggested he turn to spin, a decision that has worked wonders as he has proven at times that he can be unplayable at this level. Across his three age-group tournaments over the last two summers – one at the Under-17 level and two at Under-19 – Pope claimed 54 wickets at an average of 16.10 in 23 matches. Last year, he picked 15 wickets in five games against the visiting Sri Lankan side in April.
“John Davidson, who works with Cricket Australia, has had a big influence in my game. Dan Cullen’s been around to help me as well. I love talking tactics with people who have had that experience. It’s still surreal now. I still can’t believe it.”