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I just want to play cricket: Billings on opting to play PSL

Last updated on 08 Mar 2023 | 09:54 AM
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I just want to play cricket: Billings on opting to play PSL

The wicket-keeper batter has skipped England's white-ball series against Bangladesh to fulfil his commitments for Lahore Qalandars in the PSL

England's white-ball contingent is featuring in a three-match T20I series against Bangladesh starting from Thursday, March 9, at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram. 

However, the team will be without several contracted players like Alex Hales, Sam Billings and Tymal Mills, who have opted out of national duties in order to fulfil commitments for their respective franchises in the Pakistan Super League.  

"It wasn't that I made myself unavailable. I had a long chat with Rob Key and Jos Buttler, and I felt at this stage of my career, I need to be playing cricket," Billings said, as quoted by ESPN Cricinfo. 

"That England team is very hard to get into. I went to the ODIs in Australia, did OK, and over the last few years, I've averaged nearly 50 in ODI cricket at a strike rate of 91. So in terms of stacking up numbers over a period of time in that format, I feel like I've done that.

"At my age, I just need to be playing cricket and enjoying my cricket. It's such a complex situation because guys who aren't contracted are severely losing out when it comes to the kind of playing in these tournaments, or not playing in this tournament," he further added. 

The Three Lions have a star-studded batting unit, and Billings stated that despite having an average close to 48 and a strike rate of 91.12 since the last ODI World Cup, it has been difficult for him to cement his place in the squad. 

"With Harry Brook, Ben Stokes, Liam Livingstone, and Jonny Bairstow to potentially return, there's no guarantee that I'd be in that World Cup team. I feel like I've done enough to be in and around the mix and my game is suited to subcontinent conditions," he said. 

"The message that I got was: if you're scoring runs, wherever it is, that's what they're going to have to select you. There's a lot of cricket to be played. If I go home, dominate county cricket, dominate the Hundred, it puts me in a really good place to be picked for the World Cup," he further added. 

The wicket-keeper batter also insisted that he does wish to play for England soon but wants to feature in the playing XI and enjoy his game rather than running drinks onto the field. 

"Everyone wants to play for England, of course, they do, but I'm 31, and I've run the drinks for eight years. I just want to play cricket, enjoy my cricket," Billings said. 

"It's a different mindset when you don't feel like you're playing for your position every single game. Lahore Qalandars has put a huge amount of trust in me and said, 'you're going to bat, and you're going to keep wicket. You're an integral part of the team.'

"That mindset, knowing that you will get a full competition or a full run of games, you see so many players benefit from it, and I think it's a lot healthier headspace for me to be in where I can actually just go out and enjoy my cricket as opposed to feeling like I have to go score every single time I bat," he added. 

With an Ashes series at home in June and the ODI World Cup set to commence later this year in India, Billings aims to pile on the runs and make it to the squads for the two marquee events in England's calendar. 

"As an English player right now, everyone wants to be a part of that team. You see the enjoyment they're playing with. You see the environment that's being created and the cricket that they're playing. There's no bigger series than the Ashes for an English player and an Australian player, so it was just a case of giving myself the best chance again."

"I just want to be playing cricket consistently and not sit on the bench. I just want to get the most out of my career, the rest of my career, and I felt like that's the best option for me," he concluded. 

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