Sam Billings blasts ‘ridiculous’ domestic white-ball schedule in England

Sam Billings, who captained Oval Invincibles to victory in the ­Hundred last year and Kent Spitfires to success in the 2021 T20 Blast, has described the domestic white-ball schedule this season as “ridiculous” with the Blast finals day scheduled for 14 ­September, fully 58 days after the last fixture of the group stage.

The entire Hundred, the whole of the Metro Bank One-Day Cup aside from the final, three rounds of County Championship fixtures and four Test matches are due to be played between the last group game of the country’s premier Twenty20 competition and the first of the knockouts.

Asked if he had an opinion on the schedule, Billings said: “Absolutely I have a view. I mean, it’s ridiculous. How do you have a final two months later after a group stage? We talk about getting the best players over in the county season and marketing the county season, it just does not make sense to me.

“That’s not to say it’s not an incre­dibly hard job, but it just doesn’t make sense. You’ve got to have the finals and the knockout stages so everyone can play and get that block done.”

Billings said the complexity of the schedule – as well as a difficult 2023 summer in which he posted a first-class average of only 9.2 – contributed to his decision to sign a white-ball-only contract with Kent last November.

“There’s so much cricket going on,” he said. “Of course as players we benefit hugely, but it can also be detrimental. Ben Stokes has pulled out of a World Cup to manage his workload – we’re seeing examples of it throughout the game now, where there’s just so much cricket that it’s very tough for these multiformat players to persist with that.”

In January 2022 Billings memorably embarked on a 500-mile drive from Queensland to Tasmania to make the first of his three Test appearances, but he has now given up on a return to the team. “There’s a lot of very good players in that side, there’s only one wicketkeeper that can play and it’s exhausting always kind of trying, trying, trying without properly breaking through,” he said.

“I wanted assurances and a bit of certainty, which I’m sure people can understand. If I thought I could get in the team it probably would have changed my lens, but something else would have had to be sacrificed. But I’m better at white-ball cricket and I see that as the best route moving forward at the stage of career that I’m at.”

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Over the winter Billings played for the eventual champions of Australia’s Big Bash League, Brisbane Heat, and for Dubai Capitals in the ILT20, where he was a beaten finalist. He turned down the chance to play in the Pakistan Super League, despite winning it in 2023 with Lahore Qalandars, and will have an extended break before Kent’s first T20 fixture on 31 May.

“I’m just very happy with where I’m at the moment,” he said. “I’ve got a four-week-old little girl at home, and I’m really enjoying that part of life. I’m enjoying some time away from the game at the moment and being refreshed, which will be somewhat of a novelty after the last few years.”

The Guardian