England limited-overs opener Sam Billings cannot help gushing over the quartet of highly talented Indian players he shares the dressing room with in Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Delhi Daredevils, even though they are currently at the bottom of the table….writes Debayan Mukherjee
The Kent-born is firm in his belief that Sanju Samson, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer are the most exciting young players India have produced in the recent past.
“Samson, Nair and Pant are the most exciting young players India have produced,” Billings, part of England’s 15-member Champions Trophy squad, said in an interview.
“Shreyas Iyer as well. They are four fantastic players. Karun had a bit more exposure to international cricket with obviously a 303 … Sanju has lit up the IPL. He has scored a brilliant hundred this year. Rishabh is an amazing talent as well.
“Shreyas scored a double hundred in one of the warm-up games against Australia,” said Billings, who has played nine One-Dayers and 10 T20 Internationals for England.
The 22-year-old Samson is Delhi’s highest scorer at the moment, aggregating 289 runs in eight outings this year, with his 63-ball 102 against Rising Pune Supergiant being the highlight.
Young wicketkeeper-batsman Pant has produced a few good performances with the bat this year.
The 19-year-old’s 16-ball 38 against Kolkata Knight Riders at home was a high point of his season along with the 36-ball 57 versus Royal Challengers Bangalore that reaffirmed the potential of the southpaw, who debuted for India this February.
Karnataka’s Karun Nair has had a quiet IPL so far but the right-hander’s unbeaten 303 against England in the fifth Test in Chennai last December had got everyone talking.
Twenty two-year-old Mumbaikar Shreyas Iyer had scripted a brilliant double century (202) against Australia in a tour game in February leading up to the four-match Test series.
The Aussie attack included the likes of Jackson Bird, MItchell Marsh, Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe.
“They are just fantastic talents and great guys to hang out with as well,” Billings said.
Billings said that he feels a calming influence in the company of Delhi coach Rahul Dravid and when the pair stretch their legs to chat, it is not only about cricket.
“He has a very calming influence. He is a fantastic human being,” Billings said about the batting legend.
“What a great bloke to have in the dressing room and have the privilege to be coached by him. We are honoured to be having him in the dressing room. I just enjoy talking to him, whether it’s about life or cricket. He is very calm like I said and offers his insight and has lots of experience.”
From Dravid to the IPL, Billings said his second tryst with the cash-rich league has been an enjoyable experience.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “The passion for the game in India is second to none. It’s been a great opportunity to come over and play in this great competition.
“It has got the best coaches in the world, the best players in the world. I have always loved coming and playing in India,” the 25-year-old added.
Delhi have endured a disastrous start to this year’s IPL, losing six of the eight games they have played so far and languish at the bottom of the points table.
But Billings asserted that the team is not far away from hitting its stride.
“We have got talent in the dressing room. It’s just about putting things right.
“We are not far away. We’ve been in contention in every single game. I would like to say we’ve lost the games as opposed to being beaten. It’s just one of those things,” he insisted.
“It’s Twenty20 cricket where if you take your foot off the gas, people will punish you. We have been dominant in all of the games, just haven’t crossed the line.”