Kent thrilled by Sam Billings' IPL snub

The club captain, currently playing in the Pakistan Super League, will be available from the start of the new County Championship season for the first time since 2015 after choosing to focus on domestic cricket


Sam Billings' availability for the start of the new County Championship season will have a positive knock-on effect for the entire Kent squad, according to head coach Matt Walker.

The 31-year-old has opted out of the Indian Premier League to focus on "longer format cricket at the start of the English summer".

He had a contract with Kolkata Knight Riders worth 2 crore (£200,000) having been retained ahead of the player auction.

The Canterbury club have not started a Championship campaign with Billings since 2015 due to his participation in the competition.

Currently playing for Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League, which runs until March 19, Billings will return in time for the start of the Division One campaign against Northamptonshire on April 6.


The Kent skipper is currently playing in the PSL (ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

"It's an enormous boost, really," said Matt Walker, according to Kent Online.

"It'll be really good for him to be here for the start of the season.

"He made that decision and it was purely his own decision to stay and take himself out of the IPL. I think he wants to be here for the start and hit the ground running at the start of our domestic County Championship campaign.

"It gives more solidarity to the group that he's here as the captain. He will be able to be around in pre-season and influence in the way that he does so well when he’s around.

"He's going to do it from the start of the season, which gives everyone a bit more clarity and solidarity around the start of the year.

"He'll be in the country for a good few weeks, getting himself playing as well as he can, because he's such a good player for us"

"I think it's really good. He won’t be dipping in a few weeks into the season.

"He can set his stall out to start the season as captain and as a player and have a good build-up to the start of the year, which he hasn't really had for a long time.

"He has come back in and has to try to hit the ground running, having played a lot of white-ball cricket. Now, he's got a chance to get himself really ready for the start of the year and I think that’s going to help him.

"It'll be good for him because I think he just wants to get on a bit of a roll, really, and play some consistent cricket."

Billings opted to honour his PSL deal instead of playing for England on their white-ball tour of Bangladesh. He also featured in the BBL having decided against being Ben Foakes' deputy on the Pakistan Test tour.


Billings played two Tests last summer (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Attention will now turn to forcing his way back into the Test reckoning having played twice last summer against New Zealand and India.

"Him in our side at the start of the year is an absolutely huge plus for us, having a player of his quality around," added Walker.

"He'll be in the country for a good few weeks, getting himself playing as well as he can because he's such a good player for us.

"Having him from the start - from a playing point of view - is a real boost but also from a captaincy point of view, too."

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