Pope fit and ready to deputise for Stokes if needed

Ollie Pope bats in the nets Getty Images

Ollie Pope says he is ready to captain England against India if Ben Stokes' knee prevents him from playing in the first Test.

Stokes underwent surgery on his troublesome left knee immediately after the World Cup where he played as a specialist batter. The hope is that he will be fit to take part against India in the first Test, starting on January 25 in Hyderabad, in a full capacity, but Pope has said it would be "silly" of him not to prepare for the scenario where the reins are handed over to him.

"I think naturally when you are vice-captain there is always a risk that the captain can go down," Pope said ahead of the deciding ODI of England's tour of the Caribbean. "Of course that is something that I can think about if it needs to happen but the feedback I have had from the physios [regarding Stokes] since the surgery has been really positive. Stokesy is doing good but it would be silly for me not to prepare."

Pope has been a non-playing member of the ODI squad after getting his first call-up to an England white-ball team and is continuing his own rehab following the dislocated shoulder he suffered in the Ashes.

Describing the experience of watching the final three matches of the series against Australia go ahead without him as "painful", Pope is nevertheless now back to more-or-less 100% full fitness.

"It was awesome to watch and I couldn't leave my sofa some days," Pope said of the Ashes, which ended 2-2. "It was frustrating not playing but the guys put on a real good show and I felt I was living it with them a little bit from my sofa with my shoulder in a sling

"[But] I'm good. The shoulder has been good. It's a stable joint and it can still be sore when I'm throwing, but that's something I'm going to have to put up with for a while."

During training in Antigua, Pope threw almost exclusively underarm, but has since started to throw overarm at times, saying that it's simply a case of saving the majority of his throws for game time. It is the third time that Pope has dislocated his shoulder, after suffering the same injury on his left side in 2019 and 2020, but he said that despite the injury occurring whilst he was diving in the field on all three occasions, he remains confident in his ability to throw himself around.

"Not [when] diving," Pope said of whether the injury remains in the back of his mind. "Because I've had the same surgery on my left side. I trust the operation and what has happened to my shoulder. I have had two on my left, the first was a smaller one which didn't go to plan, but in terms of diving around, no. I know I have a stable joint now and that is the good thing in my mind."

This is the fourth week in a row that Pope has been away from home, after he joined up with the white-ball squad in the Caribbean after being part of the England Lions red-ball training camp in Abu Dhabi.

"It is a lot better preparation for India than it would be back in the indoor school at The Oval or in the gym the whole time," he said.

"Each batter has probably started thinking about their gameplan whether that is defence or attack. We are going to go about it in a positive way. The pitches in India can be really flat as well so you never know it could be 600 par score in the first innings or it could be 200 par score. Each batter has clarity in their mind and we have been speaking with Trescothick since summer about honing defence."

It is the first time that Pope has had to split red- and white-ball thought processes having had five years in the England set-up exclusively as a Test cricketer. Having played just three List A matches in the last four years, Pope's inclusion in the one-day squad was a surprise if not a shocking one, with England long having earmarked the right-hander as a multi-format player.

"I think anywhere three, four, five," Pope said of where he expects to fit into the XI when the time for a debut comes. "I feel like I can play spin quite nicely and rotate quite nicely. I think I have to just keep developing the boundary options.

"I knew I had a chance and I feel like my game is well suited to 50-over cricket. I just had a bit of bad luck in 50-over cricket over the last couple of years. I feel I have a lot to offer, but now I want to go and show it."