Pope turning heads but knows he must wait his turn
TURNING the ball sideways is the easy part of Lloyd Pope's lonely profession.
The tricky part is waiting for his turn to show everyone what he can do.
If being anointed as Australia's most exciting young leg-spinner since Shane Warne is anything like the election of a new pope at the Vatican, then the smoke billowing out of the Sistine Chapel remains black, not white, meaning the wait goes on for Australia's flame-haired tweaker.
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"I guess there's a tiny sense of frustration because you always want to play as high as you can and you always have to be believe in yourself to be able to do that," Pope said.
"I'd love to play the highest level but I definitely understand that I'm a young kid and some patience is required, and I've got to put some performances out in the middle, so I'm just hoping to do that in the near future."
So far, Pope's done exactly that and more to fuel the hype about the player he could be.
He took eight wickets in an Under 19s World Cup match against England in 2018, seven in just his second first-class match, five for Australia A against Pakistan a little over a month ago and 3-23 for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash last week.
They're the sort of numbers to get everyone giddy with excitement that Warne's long-term successor has finally arrived, but it's the figure 20 - Pope's age - that has everyone erring on the side of caution.
Even the king himself, Warne, had to wait until he was 22 before he got called into the Australian Test side and he really wasn't ready at the time, so his advice to Pope has been to stay patient.
"We met briefly at Adelaide Oval a while ago, a couple of years, and he just said basically 'you're on the right track, keep going," Pope said.
"It wasn't a whole lot but it was really nice to meet him and obviously he's someone I looked up to as a kid.
"There's also that social media aspect so I'm sure he's had a few tweets and what not, so it's nice that he knows that I exist."
Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques has also urged Pope to bide his time even though he's been impressed by his talent and dedication to master the most difficult skill in the game.
"It's tough for a leg-spinner to get enough opportunities because the modern day game is always demanding execution and building pressure et cetera, but he's been fantastic for us," Henriques said.
"He's going from strength to strength and long may that continue because he's a good kid and he loves the game, and he loves bowling."
If there's one thing that irks Pope as much as having to wait in line, it's the lack of opportunities given to other wrist spinners, a battle Warne has been fighting for years.
That is why Pope is joining his idol in hoping that fellow leggie Mitchell Swepson gets picked to play in the third Test against the Kiwis to finally make his debut at age 26.
"We've done a little bit of work together at the spin camp and he's an amazingly talented bowler, so it's good that he's getting some recognition for what he's able to do," Pope said.
"There's parts of his game that I will try and emulate, so hopefully he gets picked for the SCG Test because I'd love to see a leggie playing for Australia. Watching Warney was pretty awesome and it would be great to see that again."