He’s been compared to Shane Warne and proclaimed a saviour of Australian cricket, all before his 19th birthday. But rather than being overawed by it all, legspinner Lloyd Pope is embracing his life-changing experiences as he turns heads with his leg-breaks and wrong ‘uns.
Pope burst onto the global scene with his remarkable figures of 8 for 35 against England in the Under-19 World Cup quarter-final, pulling Australia back from the brink of elimination in a manner Warne would have been proud of. Then in just his second first-class match he claimed 7 for 87 against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield, becoming the youngest player to take a seven-wicket haul in the competition. On Wednesday, his first Big Bash contract was confirmed when he signed with Sydney Sixers.
In the current climate of Australian cricket, where each day appears to bring another sacking, resignation or associated drama, Pope’s rapid rise has been enough for some to suggest that international cricket should come sooner rather than later. While he isn’t getting carried away, the spotlight certainly doesn’t sit uneasily for him.
“It’s a different challenge, but I guess I like the media attention. Just trying to ride the wave at the moment. The attention is one thing I feel more off the field. When I’m out there I just sort of let cricket take over,” he said. “My dad’s told me that each time I take wickets ‘you’ve change your life today’ so it’s a really good feeling.”
Pope’s father, Myles, has been a major influence on his early development, offering encouragement and advice while even as a young teenager coaches spotted that he may have some special – “a natural turner of the ball,” he was termed.
“Think I was around 8-10 years old [when I started] and I’ve always just tried to jump in the nets and bowl as much as I can,” he said. “My dad’s been a big influence, just telling me to go out and bowl. A couple of coaches said I had natural talent, a natural turner of the ball one of them said and if I could continue with that I’d have a bright future.”
Pope has had one session with Warne when he was younger – “amazing feeling to shake his hand, to know he knows who I am” – but stressed how he was keen to forge his own path, while absorbing all the advice he could. His sharply spun googly has been the delivery to really catch the eye and the aspect of his first dip into the BBL that he is excited about is the chance to have the license to go through a full range of variations.
“I’ve had a bit of a red-ball focus recently with Shield cricket but it’s going really well, it will be nice to get the white ball back in my hands and try some more variations. There are different challenges, in red-ball cricket it’s a lot about consistency and in white-ball cricket it’s about a lot more variations and being able to out-think batters a lot more quickly.”
And while talk of international honours will follow Pope around, especially if the wickets continue to come, he is keeping his feet on the ground. “I’ve only played three matches so I’m more worried about keeping my place in the Redbacks team, if I can do that I’ll be a very happy man.”