After missing out on the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 with a shoulder injury, 28-year-old Kent wicket-keeper batsman Sam Billings has been named Eoin Morgan’s deputy for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.
Billings last played an international in March this year, in a T20I against West Indies in Basseterre, shortly before he suffered the injury that kept him out of the World Cup. Now, he is set to make it back to the national side, on the back of three centuries in his last five innings for Kent, for whom he also served as captain, in Division One of the County Championship.
"It's great to get some recognition and it's a huge honour," Billings said. “It's a great opportunity to be recognised as a developing leader. And there's an element of personal development about it, too.
"I captained the England Lions last winter and my county for the last two years. Eoin gave me a call a couple of weeks ago and said he'd love me to do it. I suppose he must see something in me. I'm looking forward to learning form him and implanting what I've done at Kent.
🛬 Touchdown in New Zealand! 🏴🇳🇿— England Cricket (@englandcricket) October 24, 2019
Excited to see the lads back in action? pic.twitter.com/aXdMDucCB1
“But I'm in the side as a batsman first and foremost and then as a keeper. You have to be able to perform at that top level consistently in those roles firstly. The captaincy is an added bonus and one I really enjoy. It makes you take responsibility for yourself and other guys."
Billings not only brings with him rich domestic form, but also international success early in the year. In his last international outing, before he picked up the injury, Billings cracked a 47-ball 87, laced with 10 fours and three sixes, to set up a 137-run win – England’s largest in the shortest format – against West Indies.
Having spent years on the fringes, he has now hit a purple patch and looks forward to extending it on the New Zealand tour. "One great thing that's been created around this group it that's it's so easy for people to come in and express themselves," he said. "You're encouraged to play the way that got you here. Tom Banton, for example, had a brilliant summer and will be encouraged to play exactly as he has been. Pat Brown is another with a few tricks up his sleeve who has impressed over the last couple of years. It's great that we've that culture where people can really go in and excel.
"I've been on the fringes for the last four or five years. I've made some performances along the way, but we have such depth in our squad in terms of batsmen and keepers.
"The last innings I played was that 87 in the West Indies. But then I got injured and missed a lot of the year. So even though that innings in the West Indies was a long time ago, it's about continuing that momentum in an England shirt. For me, it's about enjoying it and it's good to be back playing. The injury has given me some perspective. I just have to make the most out of every opportunity. For me, as a player, my focus is on being in that T20 World Cup squad."