IPL 2018: England’s Sam Billings for ‘fast forward’ T20 leagues as Counties fume
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IPL 2018: England’s Sam Billings for ‘fast forward’ T20 leagues as Counties fume

Sam Billings believes playing in T20 leagues like Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League are crucial for players to grow

cricket Updated: Apr 11, 2018 08:54 IST
N  Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Sam Billings,Chennai Super Kings,IPL 2018
Sam Billings was named Man-of-the-Match on his Chennai Super Kings debut.(AFP)

Sam Billings was a late buy for Chennai Super Kings in January’s player auction for Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018, but the England limited-overs batsman came to the party early on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old was a livewire on the field and then scored a match-winning 56 to set up CSK’s grand homecoming as they beat Kolkata Knight Riders by five wickets in a high-scoring game at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Tuesday.

His 23-ball knock of power and poise negated Andre Russell’s 36-ball 88 not out as CSK chased down KKR’s 202/6 with a ball to spare. He was named Man-of-the-Match.

Billings was thrilled to do it for the CSK fans, who turned up in thousands in the team’s yellow t-shirts. “It means a lot to me, of course to the team, and even more to the fans. We saw their passion, in the practice game we saw 10000 people, Dhoni wasn’t even here, he was in Mumbai for the captain’s meet. That shows how much it means to people in this part of the world.”

READ | IPL 2018: Andre Russell bemoans bowling let down after Kolkata Knight Riders’ loss to Chennai Super Kings

In two years with Delhi Daredevils, Billings played 11 games, but his third IPL half-century promises him a regular spot, after replacing injured Kedar Jadhav in the eleven on Tuesday.

Dhoni fan

Billings said skipper MS Dhoni, and coaches Stephen Fleming and Mike Hussey have helped the dressing room bond.

“MS…he just enables people to relax, and be very calm like he is… it is a close-knit group. It has only been two games and practice games, but it is amazing how quickly it has gelled. That is the difference in these close games, team culture is a huge thing.”

His 54-run stand with Dhoni also was crucial. “MS didn’t say much. It was a matter of running hard and minimising dot balls. He is very fast between the wickets, and especially against quality spin, it’s a matter of rotating the strike.

“It is about playing smart, and his whole career he has played smart and finishing games probably more than anyone else.”

READ | IPL 2018: Now, MS Dhoni wants bonus runs for sixes hit out of the stadium

While Billings and many other England players are embracing T20 cricket, English County team directors are unhappy with players heading to the IPL, hurting the first-class season getting under way. Yorkshire was upset after pacer David Willey was signed up by CSK as injury replacement for Mitchell Santner.

Player interest

However, Billings, who has played 13 ODIs and 17 T20s for England, feels T20 leagues are crucial for a player’s growth.

“It is a difficult one (choice). I have been around the world, played the Big Bash League for the last two years, and Pakistan Super League. These competitons are more or less international cricket. You’re playing in front of a crowd as big as in any international game. You’ve got international quality through every single side.

READ | Ish Sodhi replaces injured Zahir Khan in Rajasthan Royals squad for IPL 2018

“You are going to improve, no doubt. It is just a shame the schedule is clashing. Things have to give. For me, each player’s situation is totally individual. You can’t say a person should be doing that and doing that. It is their choice.

“Of course, I feel for the Counties. I was made captain of Kent as well, so it is a difficult one. I have been with the club since I was eight. They have produced me through the academy and everything. They are producing players to play for England ultimately, and to play in IPL. That looks really good on them.

“In terms of producing top-level cricketers, you are going to take the next level up. These tournaments just fast forward that process.”

First Published: Apr 11, 2018 08:45 IST