Right-handed batter Ollie Pope said he will be ready to captain England in Test cricket in the upcoming home summer if Ben Stokes misses out on any of their six matches due to long-standing fitness issues.
Stokes had a long-standing left knee injury flared up during the series in New Zealand in February, which limited his ability to use his right-arm pace bowling. He also suffered niggles while being a part of the Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2023, which limited his participation to just two matches.
"Everyone wants to see Stokesy play all six Tests so fingers crossed his body is all good and he can do that. But if it is the case (that I captain) then I feel (ready). It is a big step up from doing it in warm-up games but I have had a bit of experience with it."
"I have been watching Stokesy fairly closely with how he goes about his captaincy. There is only one Ben Stokes. I wouldn't try to be him but if called upon I feel confident I can relay the same messages to the guys."
"The team has been together for a long time and guys know what their roles are in the team so it's about relaying the messages and keeping the positive attitude," Pope was quoted as saying by Sky Sports News.
Pope was recently appointed as Stokes' vice-captain ahead of England's Test summer which starts with a one-off match against Ireland at Lord's on June 1, followed by a highly-anticipated five-match Ashes series from June 16 at Edgbaston.
"It's a big honour. I was excited to find out and it is a nice thing to have, gives you that extra bit of confidence that you are being backed by management and team-mates. It doesn't really change anything for me.
I've tried to help out Stokesy wherever I can, not that he needs it, if I have got any ideas and we obviously have some great guys to call upon with amazing experience, so those guys will be great to lean on," he added.
England have won 10 of 12 Tests since Stokes became captain and embraced an aggressive brand of cricket, with Pope insisting the success from last year can continue against Australia.
"An Ashes series is bigger than any series we play, there is no hiding behind that. I'd like to think that in England we are favourites. As long as we can keep relaying those positive messages to the group that is the main thing for us. I have 100 per cent confidence we can continue that run of form," he said.
England are looking to regain the Ashes against Australia for the first time since 2015. After Edgbaston hosts the first Ashes Test from June 16-20, the rest of the games will take place at Lord's (June 28-July 2), Headingley (July 6-10), Old Trafford (July 19-23) and The Oval (July 27-31).