Sam Billings: The Future of English Cricket

Over the past few years, England batsman Sam Billings has earned the reputation of being one of the most skilful batsmen in limited overs cricket. A naturally aggressive player, Billings has proven that he has the potential to turn the tide in matches, with both the bat and in the field. He first made a name for himself in the 2014 Royal London One Day Cup, where a series of phenomenal performances brought him to the attention of the England selectors. In that tournament, Billings averaged a remarkable 114, scoring at a strike rate of 154. From that moment, the Kent batsman’s career has soared.

Now, having played over 17 matches for England, Billings is looking to build a name for himself and gain experience. In today’s cricketing world, this involves playing in as many franchise tournaments as possible. A month ago, he was in Australia representing the Sydney Sixers and at the moment he is in Dubai with Islamabad United. For a young batsman, the opportunity to play with some of the most experienced and talented cricketers in the world cannot be overstated. There is no better place to play franchise cricket than the IPL in India.

IPL 2017
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Sam Billings is no stranger to the IPL. In last year’s edition, Billings negotiated a contract with the Delhi Daredevils. It turned out to be a mixed season for Delhi who ended up finishing 6th, missing out on the knockout places by a tantalising two points. Unfortunately, Billings was not given much of an opportunity by his side, featuring in only five of their 14 match campaign. Yet, he made an instant impression in India, hitting a 34-ball 54 against the formidable Kolkata Knight Riders on debut. This knock was exceptionally entertaining, as it showed that he had adapted to the Indian conditions well as he chose to sweep a lot. His following knocks were less prolific, but his 2016 stint showed that he was easily able to hold his own amongst some of the greatest ever T20 batsmen.

There was no surprise to see Billings’ name in the auction for the 2017 IPL. However, it was an interesting choice from him to enter in the lowest base price category of £30,000. It showed how desperate he is to be given a contract, not concerned about the price, but focusing on the incredible opportunity it offers. He will definitely be in high demand in the auction on the 20th February. A few sides have expressed interest in him, with many fans thinking he would be a great fit in the Kings XI Punjab team. It is highly probable that his price will escalate well beyond his entry point.

Possible Test Call-Up
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There is no doubt that Billings is primarily a limited overs batsman, but he has proven that he is still capable of scoring runs in the longer format of the game. Although he is yet to have been given a Test cap, the Kent batsman has continually impressed in the County Championship. He has a solid First Class average of around 33, including three hundreds. Remarkably, Billings doesn’t vary his approach to the game in the longer format, opting to take the attack to the bowlers wherever possible.

After the abysmal tour of India, England will be looking to make changes to their side. Their batting unit looked exceptionally weak against spin which is one of the stronger aspects of his game. It may not be possible, however, for him to bat high up the order – as England’s top order is well established. However, there could be an opportunity for Billings in the middle or lower order. His ability to keep wicket is extremely useful and the chances are he will soon be England’s back-up keeper behind Jonny Bairstow.

Part of the reason why he opted to play in he Big Bash was to improve his chances of playing in the Ashes. He seemed to acclimatise well to the Australian conditions as he hit three consecutive scores of over 40 against some skilled attacks. Australia is one of the toughest places to go as a cricketer, but he has already proven himself in their conditions and is a rare fan favourite there.

Where Next for Sam Billings?

The immediate priority of Billings is to score runs in the ongoing Pakistan Super League. He is playing in a side which is one of the favourites to win the competition, which features fellow Englishman, Steven Finn. From there, Billings should be heading off to the Caribbean where England will take on the West Indies in a three-match ODI series. If he gets a contract, this will then be followed by a long stint in India playing in the IPL.

The long term aim for Billings will be to impress in the Champions Trophy. The tournament is being played in England and they have a great chance to win the competition. By that point, Billings will have hopefully established himself in the side and be a first team regular.