Ollie Pope: England batsman picks red-ball team from cricketers he has played with and against
"Kevin Pietersen will bring that bit of X-factor and ability to step up in any situation, in any conditions, and change the game"
By Ollie Pope - @OPope32
Last Updated: 05/04/20 8:25am
Ollie Pope has mixed it with some top players in his young career to date.
So we asked the batsman to pick an ultimate red-ball XI from the cricketers he has played with and against for Surrey and England.
The 22-year-old - who backed up some excellent real-life form for his country with a century in the second Virtual Test between England and Sri Lanka - came up with the names below.
Pope had to, in his own words, "go a little rogue" in order to get all the players he wanted in his formidable side, with a couple of stars batting either higher or lower than usual…
SIR ALASTAIR COOK
I want him facing the first ball of the innings for clear reasons. Since I've been playing he has been England's best and most consistent opener and I was lucky enough to make my debut with him in the side. He didn't talk too much when I was in the dressing room with him but when a point needed to be made he would make it. He was one of those guys you automatically listened to when he spoke. I remember before his last Test in 2018 when just him and I ended up having dinner in the hotel bar and for me, being only 20 at the time and not having played a great amount, to have dinner with him was pretty surreal. He just has so much time for everyone.
That Oval century in his last innings obviously stands out. He has hit so many centuries and contributing innings but that one will really stick in everyone's mind. It must have been spinetingling for him but for everyone involved it couldn't have been a better send-off. It was one he thoroughly deserved. He is an amazing guy.
I have had to go a little rogue as he is not an opener but I needed to get him in my side. He batted a lot at No 3 but I'm sure he will do fine up top! Another surreal one for me was when I was 18 and made my Surrey debut in a game in which he was playing. I remember whenever we had a net just standing watching him and trying to learn as much as I could. Statistically he is one of the greats but he is also one of the best people to watch bat.
My breakthrough year was his final year when he hit five first-class hundreds in a row and nearly matched Don Bradman's record of six. I was very fortunate to be around while he did that. I think we all wanted him to carry on playing but he made the decision that it was his last year and, who knows, perhaps that gave him some extra motivation and hunger. He is doing amazing things now for the MCC and elsewhere.
He was playing for India when I made my debut and hopefully I can play against him in the future. Across the three formats he is one of the best in the world and walking out to bat he can make or break a lot of Indians' days as they are so desperate for him to do well and score runs, which he generally does! He is different from Alastair and Kumar and a lot of captains around the world in that he is more vocal and shows his feeling a bit more. It's interesting to watch and shows you can be successful in different ways.
He nearly came and played for Surrey last year and it would have been great to see how he was in the changing room and at training when he wasn't captain. If guys like him hit a bit of bad form they are quick to find a solution. That's why he is so good.
JOE ROOT - captain
The captain is at No 4, I've got to keep him happy! Like Kohli, he has been among the best in all forms over many years - he is amazing to watch and a guy I watched a lot growing up. People might compare my style to his but I wouldn't say I have copied anything from him. I guess it's because we play at a similar tempo and have a similar set-up, so perhaps naturally I might have picked up a few things.
Under his captaincy, I feel we are really going in the right direction. I felt that in New Zealand, even though we didn't get the results we wanted, as from the team talks we had before the series it seemed like this was a new era. Joe, alongside head coach Chris Silverwood, has got his vision for this squad and we saw the rewards in South Africa. There may be bumps along the way but we know exactly how we want to play and the style of players we want. Joe brings a lot of clarity on that.
He will bring that bit of X-factor and ability to step up in any situation, in any conditions around the world, and change the game. I remember a bit about the 2005 Ashes series, including KP's hundred at The Oval, and ever since then he has been one of my favourite players to watch. I appreciate that sort of innings even more now and the way he just cleared he ropes against a quality Australia attack was just ridiculous. It's fair to say that KP wasn't afraid to put his neck on the line for what he believed in and I guess he did set a pathway for current England players to go to the IPL and we have benefited a lot from that.
AB DE VILLIERS - wicketkeeper
He is Mr 360 in white-ball cricket but his Test record stands out as well. The way he goes about his game is great - he is also an amazing fielder and can keep as well, which is what he is doing for me in this team. There has been talk that he might come out of international retirement to play in the T20 World Cup later this year and that would be great for the game. I played against him for Surrey against Middlesex in the T20 Blast last year and he played some ridiculous knocks in that tournament.
He can hit the ball to any part of the ground, which must be a nightmare for captains when setting fields. There aren't many players in the world who can play those hard sweeps over backward square like he can! I have decided to make De Villiers my keeper over Sangakkara purely due to workload. Sanga is obviously an amazing keeper but I'm hoping that, as my opener, he plays some long, long innings so I have let him settle at first slip.
He is obviously batting a bit lower than usual but he is going to be the all-rounder. He is probably the most ridiculous cricketer I have played with, in that he can do anything. He makes the game look so easy. That summer he had is spoken about quite a lot within the dressing room. I just sit and listen when the boys chat about something that was so amazing for him. The way he backed it up this winter in South Africa, when he was named Player of the Series for his performances with bat and ball, shows he is a game-changer. He rocks up to every Test match like it's his first, prepares for every Test like it's his first and that is a great thing to learn off.
A lot of people have to listen to their body a bit more than perhaps he does but the sessions he does the day before a game to stay in peak condition are superb. He leaves nothing in the tank. No one works harder and he deserves all the success that has come his way. The way he works with Rooty gives us great leadership, too.
I have never faced him - I think I was out by the time he came on against India a few years ago! But having seen him, I would say he is the best spinner I've been around. It looks like, and I guess this might be the case with Nathan Lyon as well, that being quite tall and getting extra bounce can make him tough to play and presents a good challenge. Ashwin has obviously got that doosra as well, so hopefully I get to test myself against it.
Imran Tahir, who I played with for a little while at Surrey, was also in the mix for my team but he is mainly a white-ball bowler. I could have gone for the England guys, at the moment that's Jack Leach and Dom Bess, but Ashwin nips past them for now! Leachy and Bessy have the potential to be just as good, though.
He's got a Test hundred to his name so jumps up to No 9 but his main role will be with the ball. Him and Jimmy Anderson have been an awesome force for England for so long now and I have been lucky enough to see them in action from gully sometimes. The skills Stuart has are superb and he must be very tough to face. He just seems to go on these amazing streaks at times and I vividly remember that 8-15 when Australia were bowled out for 60 at Trent Bridge in 2015.
When he gets on a roll he is pretty unstoppable and it's no coincidence that happens. He's a top lad in the dressing room and great to chat to about anything. He has everyone's best interests at heart and always makes the time to check up on you and see how you are. He brings a lot of energy to the group.
Morne brings some extra pace to my side. As I said in my column last week, he's not the nicest to face in the nets, with his height and speed making him a real challenge. He is a gentle giant as a person, though, one of the nicest blokes in cricket.
That's something we try and do at Surrey - we want the best players but we want them to be great people as well and Morne certainly is. He takes big chunks out of his day to chat to you. As he played alongside Dale Steyn for years for South Africa, I guess he might be a little bit underrated but anyone who has faced him knows how good he is.
An easy choice, this one. It's awesome to be able to share a changing room with him and the skills he has with ball in hand have been evident for years. I have only faced him in the nets but can see he has everything you need to be a successful fast bowler. Standing in the slips to him on my debut against India, I felt like he could nick someone off every ball. He never misses his mark so on the rare occasion when he's not taking wickets, he is maintaining the pressure by not going at more than two an over.
What he doesn't have with that 90mph-plus bowling, he more than makes up for with his swing and nip both ways. He's also not as grumpy as he is portrayed to be! When I was a youngster I wasn't sure what to expect from him but he is one of the funnier lads in the changing room. He is always cracking jokes so you have to be on your toes around him!