Sam Billings is looking to lose his secondary role and secure an elite contract with England after answering another SOS call for a T20 clash in the West Indies following the Test debut in Australia
- Sam Billings wants to impress in the Caribbean and lose his bit-part status
- The 30-year-old took four connecting flights to face West Indies on Saturday
- He has regularly responded to SOS calls since making his England debut in 2015
Sam Billings is tired of warming up to the English bench and is looking for the clarity a central contract would guarantee after playing in all three international formats for the past six months.
Billings, 30, was a surprise omission from the list of 20 names announced by the ECB last October and was also not among the four incremental contracts.
The purpose of the revised contracts – which from this year evenly cover Test and cue ball players – is to reward people the management team expects to play important roles over the coming 12-month period.
Sam Billings has played in all three international formats for England in the past six months
However, the Kent captain has consistently answered SOS calls since making his England debut seven years ago and having covered 12,500 miles since his debut at the last Ashes Test in Hobart via four connecting flights to the ground for this weekend’s Twenty20 double. heading against West Indies in Barbados, he declared himself ready to be a more permanent fixture.
And that it would enjoy the security and confidence that comes from a central contract.
“It’s a really interesting time for me as a cricketer,” Billings said. “I feel, especially with the form I’ve shown in the Big Bash and over the past two years for Kent, that I’m playing my best cricket.
“To move forward, I just have to play. I can’t sit on the bench. I spent enough time doing this. I feel like I can offer a lot whether it’s with the red ball or the white ball.
The 30-year-old has regularly responded to SOS calls since his England debut
Unlike some of his teammates, Billings could be forgiven for his low score in Saturday’s series opener having only been cleared from a two-day tour quarantine at 11 a.m. the day before the game.
“I flew from Hobart to Sydney, from Sydney to LA, from LA to Miami, then from Miami to here,” he said. “I tried to calculate how long it took about four times.
“What was amazing was because of the jet lag; I took off at 11am on the 18th and landed in LA at 8am the same day. I had been on a plane for 15 hours. How it works is remarkable, but I barely knew what day it was.
As well as playing in the World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi in November, he then agreed to cover for injured rivals Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow for the fifth Test against Australia – a game that saw him earn credit for his at-bat in the first inning and five dismissals in the second – after playing in the country for Sydney Thunder.
But he wants to be more than a multi-format super-sub and hopes a decent streak here in the Caribbean will allow him to shed his bit-part status.
Billings hopes a decent series in the Caribbean will allow him to lose his small-actor status
“I’ve been in and around all the different environments and been a great team player and done pretty well when I stepped in,” he said.
“But that clarity is a huge thing for me, moving forward. From a testing point of view, I really want to give it a real good crack. But the problem is that I don’t know what’s going on.
“I’m not under central contract, I’ve never been under central contract, so it’s very difficult to get that clarity as a player for myself.
“Central contracts give that clarity to your schedule – what you can do for the year. I never had that, but that’s the challenge now.
Some are expected to come for a man who was also called up to two Test squads last summer shortly after this fortnight’s trip when England selected his squad to return to the Caribbean for a three-match series on February 24.
Billings smiled: “I’m absolutely not in possession. I want to be, but it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that we have pretty good deep strength at the wicket-beaters. Probably the strongest era of all countries. You’re looking at Jos and Jonny, two of the best white ball players, and Ben Foakes also waiting in the wings, so there’s great competition. For me, as an individual, I just have to be able to put myself in the best mindset possible to perform and seize those opportunities whenever they arise.