The Chennai Super Kings won a thriller against the Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday. The star with the bat for CSK was a 26-year-old Englishman named Sam Billings who scored a swashbuckling 56 of 23 balls. Billings, who made his CSK debut in the same game is considered to be one of the top English prospects.
Born on June 15,1991 at Pembury, Billings grew up on his family's farm in north Kent. From his childhood, he displayed a relatively rare all-around talent in sports. Billings played tennis for Kent and was even offered a trial by Tottenham Hotspur Football Club following a fantastic performance against the clubâ€™s academy while playing for the Corinthian Under-14 team. He also played racquets, squash and rugby. His love for the game of racquets started since his grandfather was a champion at one stage. His cousin, Tom Billings, is currently a world ranked player in the sport as well. Billings attributes racquets as a big part of his development as a batsman and in particular, his hand-eye-coordination which can be seen on the cricket pitch.
In 2017 during an interview with The Telegraph, Billings was asked about the size of the farm he grew up on. He replied, â€śI get ripped enough for being posh, so Iâ€™m not going to disclose it, because that will set me up big time with the lads.â€ť
Billings first showed signs of his love for the game while studying at Haileybury College in Hertfordshire where he was a regular for their cricket First XI throughout his school career. Following this, he studied for a degree in Sport and Exercise Science at Loughborough University where Billings has stated in an interview with ESPN Cricinfo in 2017 that he was not good enough before attending the school. â€śI was crap at school. Nowhere near good enough to go from the Kent Academy, where I'd been for a few years, onto the staff and get a contract. Growing up, coming through the age groups, blokes like Jos (Buttler), they were miles ahead. In England age-group sides, I played as a keeper and lower-order batsman. I couldn't get it off the square, I was too small. But not being good enough spurred me on, because - as clichĂ©d as it sounds - I hadn't ever wanted anything other than to be a sportsman,â€ť he had said.
Billings made his first-class debut for Loughborough MCCU on April 2, 2011 against Northamptonshire at the age of 20. He immediately impressed by scoring 131 in his first game. He played three more first-class games for the university where he scored a total of 321 runs at an average of 45.85 through his first four county games.
Whilst at the university, Billings was also a part of the Kent squad and made his first appearance for the side a month later. His debut for Kent was coincidently against his university team. He also made his List-A debut for Kent in the same year. Since then, Billings took time to make a name for himself and become recognised as a prospect for English cricket.
Billings was selected for the English Performance Program in 2014 where he showcased his fitness levels and work-ethic. In an interview with Cricinfo in 2017, he had said, â€ťFor me, fitness has got to be non-negotiable in the modern game. It's a real base of where you are mentally. The sports science I did at uni taught me that fitness and psychology go hand in hand - if you are pushed to your optimum, you become more emotional and more raw character shows. That's the purpose of preparing better - to get fitter, so my ceiling is higher and I'm calmer and I can perform better in those high-pressure situations.â€ť
The following year was a breakout for Billings. He made his ODI debut in June and also his T20 debut later that month against the touring New Zealand team playing as a specialist batsman. Billings though found it tough to become a regular in the England team, while he was almost always being named in the squad. He made his first appearance for England as a wicketkeeper against Pakistan in November 2015 and also made his maiden international 50 in the same game.
Since then, Billings has become one of the busiest cricketers in the world. He was selected for the Pakistan Super League, Indian Premier League and Big Bash League while fulfilling his national and county commitments as well in 2016. When asked about his various experiences from all over the world in an interview by Cricinfo, he said, â€ťIt's been amazing. I've probably made 100 new mates across the world, and I absolutely love that. That's what's special about the game. I've played at grounds I've dreamed of playing at, and in front of huge crowds. The pressure of being the overseas player is huge. I've learned a huge amount, rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in the sport, and I've improved hugely as a cricketer. The IPL was a bit of a blur, but in the BBL, at Adelaide Oval on New Year's Eve, there was a moment I just took it all in. Looking up at the huge new stands, I just thought, 'How good is this? A world away from a freezing cold farm in Kent!â€ť.
After being named as the new captain for his county side Kent, Billings announced that he would miss the first 5 or 6 games of the season due to his IPL commitments. This was met with outrage from the Kent fans. In an interview with The Telegraph, Billings said, â€śItâ€™ll be good to get some clarity out there - Iâ€™ve seen a lot of angry Kent fans. I think the problem with people at the moment is that they have this idea of the IPL and these other tournaments. I can say that with the last two years for Delhi, I didnâ€™t go there for monetary value, itâ€™s being there to improve as a cricketer and getting the opportunity to play in front of 60,000 people.â€ť
Known for his witty humour and easygoing mentality, Billings speaks his mind and wears his heart on his sleeve. He is self-critical, just as ambitious and has emerged as one of the most promising cricketers in todayâ€™s game.