Sam Billings is fed up with warming England’s bench and is looking for the clarity a central contract would guarantee after featuring in all three international formats over the past six months.
Billings, 30, was a surprise omission from the list of 20 names announced by the ECB last October and did not feature amongst the four increment contracts, either.
The purpose of the revised contracts – which from this year uniformly cover Test and white-ball players – is to reward those individuals who the management team foresee playing significant parts over the following 12-month period.
Sam Billings has featured in all three international formats for England over past six months
However, the Kent captain has regularly answered SOS calls since making his England debut seven years ago and after completing a 12,500-mile dash from a debut in the final Ashes Test in Hobart via four connecting flights to get onto the field for this weekend’s Twenty20 double header versus West Indies in Barbados, he has declared himself ready to be a more permanent fixture.
And that he would benefit from the security and confidence which emanates from a central contract.
‘This is a really interesting time for me as a cricketer,’ said Billings. ‘I feel like, especially with the form I’ve shown in the Big Bash and in the last couple of years for Kent, I’m playing my best cricket.
‘Moving forward I’ve just got to play. I can’t be sat on the bench. I’ve done enough time doing that. 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 answered SOS calls since making his England debut
Unlike some of his team-mates, Billings could be forgiven for his low score in Saturday’s series opener having only been cleared to exit a two-day tour quarantine at 11am the day before the game.
‘I got a plane from Hobart to Sydney, Sydney to LA, LA to Miami and then Miami down to here,’ he said. ‘I’ve tried to work out how long it took about four times.
‘The amazing thing was because of the time difference; I took off at 11am on the 18th and I landed in LA at 8am the same day. I’d been on a plane for 15 hours. How that works is remarkable but I barely knew what day it was.’
In addition to playing in the World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi in November, he then agreed to cover injured wicketkeeping rivals Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow for the fifth Test versus Australia – a match which saw him gain credit for his batting in the first innings and five dismissals in the second – having been in the country playing for Sydney Thunder.
But he wants to be more than a multi-format super-sub and is hoping that a decent series here in the Caribbean will allow him to lose his bit-part status.
Billings is hoping that a decent series in the Caribbean will allow him to lose his bit-part status
‘I’ve been in and around all the different environments and been a great squad player and actually done pretty well when I’ve stepped in,’ he said.
‘But that clarity is a huge thing for me, moving forward. From a Test point of view, I really want to give it a real good crack. But the problem is I don’t know what’s going on.
‘I’m not centrally contracted, I’ve never been centrally contracted, so it’s very hard 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’ve never had that but that’s the challenge now.’
Some should come for a man who was also called into two Test squads last summer soon after this fortnight’s trip when England select their 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 work out that we have pretty good strength in depth in wicketkeeping batsmen. Probably the strongest era for any country ever. You look at Jos and Jonny, two of the best white-ball players, and Ben Foakes as well waiting in the wings, so there’s great competition. For me as an individual I’ve just got to be able to put myself in the best possible mindset to perform and take those opportunities whenever they come.’