Speaking on The Grade Cricketer, England batter Ollie Pope discussed the technique debate which dominated much of the English summer, suggesting too much had been made of something that “doesn’t really make much of a difference”.
The discussion surrounded the chosen guards of England’s batters. There has been a trend of players to bat on off-stump, with the thinking that this will allow players to capitalise on straight balls while also being able to leave balls outside their eyeline. However, after England’s 1-0 Test series defeat to New Zealand, the method came in for harsh criticism. Notably, former England captain Nasser Hussain, speaking on Sky Sports Cricket, lambasted the home batting line-up.
“They have all these odd techniques and idiosyncratic movements,” he said. “In county cricket, they are all standing on off-stump and flashing at balls outside off. It’s like everyone else is wrong — all those great players of the past, people like Sir Viv Richards and Graham Gooch — and they are right.”
Pope had a high score of 23 in the series and was dismissed lbw twice, but he explained how, in his view, criticism came because of low scores, and was linked to his technique wherever he stood.
“When I first played [Test cricket], I batted on middle, and nicked off to a few balls outside off stump. Everyone’s like ‘you need to sort out off-stump’. [I] get injured, stand on middle-and-off, get a few runs there. ‘What a great decision it is’. Get lbw twice for 20-odd against New Zealand, and suddenly, what am I doing standing on middle and off stump?”
Pope elaborated that there were more important things, technically, than the starting position of the feet.
“We’re talking about an inch’s difference. It doesn’t really make much of a difference. From a technical point of view, as long as your head’s in the right position and you can access a straight ball down the line then so be it. But you’re going to get out some way as a batter. I’m sure if I’d stood on middle and off and nicked two wide ones then it’s a completely different issue.”
An injury kept Pope sidelined for the first three Tests against India, and when he returned he took a middle-stump guard and made 81. However, he said this was down to evaluating the India attack, rather than because he’d paid heed to any criticism.
“In the last Test I played I batted on middle and got 80-odd, and I’m having all the commentators being like ‘So you’ve listened to the commentary’,” he said. “I haven’t listened to the commentary, I’ve just adapted my game because of the bowler’s I’m facing. It’s interesting how it works. There’s a lot of chat about it, and I think we try and block out that outside noise. It is a bit over the top sometimes. In the past I wasn’t really an lbw candidate, but then I got out twice and I’m doing everything wrong.”
Pope is set to bat at No.6 for England in their Ashes opener at the Gabba, which begins at midnight on December 8.