With a second-tier team heading to the Caribbean due to trial homework for Buttler, Bairstow and Stokes, the trip to the West Indies was a big chance for Billings, the kind of opportunity he has been patiently waiting for, it is why he wanted time to think about the decision.
Should he give up guaranteed cricket in the West Indies for not having the chance to play in a test match so as not to be chosen at the last moment? Previous generations wouldn’t have hesitated to play an Ashes Test, but now there are other options for players, and even though he was on the test squad for the New Zealand Series last summer, Billings never really had realistic ambitions for the test.
By joining the test team in Hobart, he will miss the start of the T20 series, giving someone else a chance.
“I spent a few moments alone in my hotel room on the Gold Coast and weighed the thing,” he said. “I spent a lot of time managing the drinks and for me I just need to play cricket. It was having this real clarity, I guess, that I wasn’t going to compromise this opportunity in the West Indies. Of course I will always help and offer whatever I can to the England team. But I think I had that assurance, I guess, that I would make it to the West Indies as well, whether I get the chance or not. So that was kind of on condition that I could do both. “
Billings doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. His Sydney Thunder teammate Usman Khawaja seized his unexpected chance at SCG with hundreds of twins.
Ben Foakes will likely remain the long-term test keeper, but a good game in Hobart this week with lots of energy behind the stumps, a clean performance with the gloves on and a few runs could see Billings come out of nowhere.
” It’s an opportunity. I’ve obviously been listening to Usman Khawaja over the last few days, ”Billings said. “I thought he was speaking incredibly well having that mind really open to the potential of what’s in front of you, and taking it. I think I can take inspiration from him. It’s a really good way to look at it sometimes. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Billings does not have a central contract and it has IPL ambitions. It will go into the auction next month but so what? He has prioritized IPL in the past, before playing Championship cricket for Kent even though he is captain, but if England are to be serious about renewing their cricket test players need to demonstrate commitment to the long format. There can be no guarantees and at age 30, it’s understandable that Billings wants to maximize his earning potential in the franchise leagues.
“It’s tough,” Billings added. “I think the contract situation is still controversial. As a player without a contract, you have to try to maximize these opportunities as much as possible, as you don’t have the possibility of realizing that you are somehow a player under contract and that you are definitely going to be chosen on the next team. It has always been a case, although I am doing well, will I play cricket on this next team; will I be on this team? And being in that frame of mind all the time is not very healthy. So I think, again, that by playing in these T20 leagues, what is good is that you are signed as a foreign player. You are valued in this environment. You know you’re going to be playing a series of games and it’s awesome.
“I only have one career, say five to seven years of playing cricket. If all goes well. So you have to maximize the opportunities as much as you can and that has been a way for me to play cricket. People looked at my IPL situation in a funny way. Again, there is no right or wrong with any of this. This hampered my chances of playing four day cricket and ultimately trial cricket. But, again, I feel like it’s pretty far away so I’ve always had an interest in advancing my career and ultimately playing for England and the white ball opportunities have obviously been a lot more close than the red balloon.