By Will Jackson
Sam Billings, who is in contention to play for England at the World Cup, has hailed an “invaluable experience” after spending the last three weeks with the England Performance Programme in Sri Lanka.
Billings, who was called up to England’s provisional 30-man World Cup squad on Friday after Craig Kieswetter was ruled out through injury, was part of the group selected on the EPP ahead of a Lions tour in the new year.
Following an intensive three-week training camp in Sri Lanka with the spinners, Billings and a select group of others have travelled to Potchefstroom, South Africa, to team up with the pace bowlers.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, 23-year-old Billings said: “It’s an invaluable experience – with all the advice they give you.
“It proves that the environment and these sort of schemes are a brilliant stepping stone to international cricket. You’re playing with and against guys who have international experience and are trying to get to the same places you are.
“It’s highly competitive which bodes well for a really good environment so it’s kind of impossible not to improve with some of the international guys hanging around and seeing how they go about their business.
On facing England’s two premier pacemen, the Kent man added: “It was brilliant – considering I’ve grown up watching these guys play, taking guard against them was a great experience and a great challenge.”
Unlike some of the other players, it is the first time Billings has been selected for such a tour and says he has loved the challenge.
“It’s been brilliant. It’s a great environment to be a part of and its my first time away with the EPP and it’s been absolutely brilliant to be a part of an a set-up where it’s impossible not to progress your cricket,” he enthused.
“You have everything there to improve so it’s been fantastic.”
A large portion of the Sri Lanka trip was focused on helping the players hone their techniques against the local spin bowlers, with Billings also developing his wicketkeeping with coach Bruce French.
“We’ve had three weeks in Sri Lanka with the batters and spinners which was really good. It’s been completely different conditions so you appreciate the work you’ve done when it’s not spinning as much,” he explained.
“Obviously spending time with Frenchy has been brilliant.
“I have a lot of areas to work on, keeping as well. Standing up, standing back in Sri Lanka and keeping to the quicks today has been really good.”
Reflecting on his call-up to the England World Cup squad, Billings said he was excited to be one step closer to realising a lifetime ambition.
He added: “(I’m) absolutely chuffed obviously. It’s the dream to play for England so its another stepping stone after a good year in the one-day stuff for Kent – it’s just really good to be in the mix and be around really high-class players so I’m really chuffed.”
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