CHENNAI: AS Spurs cantered past Bournemouth to keep the heat at the top of the Premier League, Sam Billings was getting ready to play for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League. In an alternate universe, Billings could have been Harry Kane’s strike partner in the game.
Over a decade ago, when the ‘keeper still hadn’t decided what sport to major in, he had turned up for a local youth side to put three past the Spurs Academy. A trial to join the Spurs Academy followed swiftly, which the then 14-year-old had to decline because he was already on way to the West Indies for an U-14 South of England tour. He didn’t stop at cricket and football. He has played tennis at the county level and rugby at the school level.
With so many options available, one might have expected him to take his time before coming to a decision. But he knew after a few years of trying to juggle between football boots, cricket bats and racquets.
“As a kid, I used to play every sport,” Billings tells Express. “Cricket, though, according to me, was my strongest sport. I definitely have no regrets whatsoever from my side that I chose to become a cricketer.”
The decision has been a rewarding one so far, with England caps and T20 appearances keeping him in good stead in the shorter formats of the game. The 25-year-old, the very definition of a modern-day cricketer, served notice of his talent in his very first IPL game – a half-century on debut in 2016.
Those sort of opportunities aside, the Kent batsman has been using the Delhi franchise to enhance his standing in the game.
“It’s been phenomenal interacting with Rahul (Dravid),” he says. “He’s probably one of the best players to have played the game. It’s been an honour and I have also been working on the mental and technique aspects.”
As someone who has always been self-aware, that comes as no surprise. A story from his life best illustrates that.
“I was at a point where I had left school and Kent hadn’t offered me a professional contract. So it was a matter of looking at opportunities elsewhere and that’s when I decided to join Loughborough. The facilities there are fantastic. So even though I wasn’t a pro, I was training as a professional cricketer. Moreover, the responsibilities are on you and that helped a lot.”
He put those hours to good use on Saturday against Kings XI.