Sam Billings is excited to grasp the unexpected opportunity of a potential Test debut in Hobart later this week, although his focus will quickly return to pinning down a permanent place in England’s white-ball teams.
Billings took a 500-mile road trip to join up with England’s Ashes squad shortly after a call on which he was told not to get on a plane back to the UK. Having finished his services with Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, Billings had been scheduled to travel home ahead of England’s T20I series against West Indies in the Caribbean, before injuries to Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, the two frontline Test wicketkeepers in Australia, forced the selectors to bring in reserve quickly.
His likely involvement in Hobart means Billings will miss England’s opening T20I in Barbados on January 22 – but he said he is guaranteed a place from the ECB of being picked for the rest of the series after agreeing to come to the Test team’s rescue.
“I am 100% ready if required, and I will give absolutely everything I can,” he told reporters in Sydney, where England secured a dramatic draw in the fourth Test. “My game is in a good place. It has been in the longer format for the last three years for Kent.
“I have been playing consistent cricket and scoring runs. It doesn’t really matter what format it is, it’s more about rhythm, confidence and mindset. Like any side I go into I will try to make a positive impact on and off the field, in any environment I am put into.
“The three guys [Buttler, Bairstow and Ben Stokes] who came out to bat in Sydney with injuries, that’s incredible courage, and exactly what everyone involved in English cricket is about – playing for each other and that resilience. There’s a lot of inspiration we can take from that as a group, that character and over-my-dead-body attitude.”
Billings has been outspoken of his ambitions to represent England in the Test side, although his excellence on the T20 circuit has limited his chances to press a case – in the last three years, he has played just 10 Championship games for Kent, averaging 44.58 with three hundreds.
“It’s a hard one,” he said. “As a non-contract [England] player, you have to try and maximise those opportunities, because you don’t have that fallback of knowing you’ll be picked in the next squad. Being constantly in that mindset isn’t very healthy. Playing in those T20 leagues, the great thing is you get signed as an overseas player and you get valued in that environment. You know you’re going to play a run of games and it’s great.”
Avishkar Govardhane is a Sports Editor and enthusiast, working here at Clout News covering the latest Cricket News.