England batsman Ollie Pope has revealed that India captain Virat Kohli had walked up to him during the opening Test of the four-match series and warned “this is the last of the flat wickets” his team would see on the tour.
Starting the series on a rousing note in February, England succumbed to the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel to suffer heavy defeats in the next three Tests.
“In the second innings the pitch started spinning quite a lot,” Pope said during Surrey’s pre-season media day at the Oval, according to ESPNcricinfo.
“I remember standing at the non-striker’s end and Kohli came up to me and said ‘this is the last of the flat wickets’. At that point, I knew it was probably going to be quite a challenging rest of the series from a batting point of view.”
Having opted to bat first in the series opener, England put up a mammoth first-innings total of 578 owing to skipper Joe Root’s 228. Playing in his first Test since dislocating his left shoulder last August, Pope chipped in with 34 from 89 balls.
England won the match by 227 runs, giving little indication of the struggles that awaited them in the next three Tests.
Seasoned campaigners like Root and star all-rounder Ben Stokes felt it was one of the toughest conditions to play in, according to Pope.
“Chatting to the more experienced guys like Joe Root and Ben Stokes, those guys were pretty much saying exactly the same: these are the toughest conditions they’ve played in,” Pope said.
“If those guys are saying it as well, you know how challenging it is.
“I’m not saying (India) felt they had to produce those wickets, but the fact they’ve gone away from their flat wickets for three days, then spin on day four and five, which is generally the theme out there, it was quite a compliment to us in how we went about our business and a compliment to our bowlers.
“That shot us in the foot a little bit but it’s a good compliment to us as a team because they obviously felt they had to change their gameplan.”
Back for the pre-season training with Surrey for next week’s County Championship opener against Gloucestershire at Bristol, Pope said he is relieved to be out of the bubble lifestyle.
“The Indian bubble was a pretty tough one,” he said.
“They were quite business-like hotels so there’s not a massive amount going on, there’s no real outdoor space to get used to, have a run-around or kick a ball around or anything normal.
“So being back and strolling to go and get a coffee or anything like that, it’s just that bit of normality that I think humans need, really.
“It does have its challenges and everyone deals with them in slightly different ways but it is very nice to be out of those bubbles and let free a little bit.”
England will look to settle scores with India when they tour in the summer. Kohli’s men though will play New Zealand in the World Test Championship final at Southampton in June before that.
India haven’t won a series in England in over 15 years and have lost during every visit since.
But having twice won in Australia since their last visit, Kohli’s men will feel confident of breaking another overseas jinx.
With PTI inputs