Billings’ Road to Redemption
Billings’ rise has been irresistible to watch
Chennai Super Kings won the second consecutive encounter of this season by beating Kolkata Knight Riders in a thriller. The high-chasing game went down the wire as CSK won with a massive six in the final over.
Andre Russell stood out with the bat for KKR while Sam Billings hogged all the headlines for CSK. Billings showed extreme composure and looked high on confidence the moment he took guard in Chennai. CSK were languishing after a blistering start from Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu, but Billings’ innings injected momentum and turned the game on its head.
Billings’ rise has been irresistible to watch, he may not have big numbers to back it up but his potential is limitless. His batting his based on sound technique and possesses pure talent. He is a gifted cricketer and not to forget, a live-wire on the field. Billings did show a glimpse of his brilliance in the past, he has played some good knocks for Delhi Daredevils earlier, but couldn’t cement his spot. Hopefully, he gets a longer run in this CSK side, where he could make the most of his potential.
In his last franchise t20 encounter for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League, Billings scored an uneaten 61 where they needed 18 of last three deliveries. He hit the first two balls for six but missed the third, which he felt was perhaps the most hittable one. This time he put Chennai in a winning position after they had fallen way behind the required run rate courtesy sluggish batting from Dhoni. In fact, Billings’ arrival injected some energy into Dhoni’s innings as well, as he suddenly started to find the boundary.
CSK started off on a brisk note with Rayudu and Watson firing with all cylinders, but a sluggish display of batting from Dhoni and Suresh Raina in the middle brought KKR back into the game. By the time Billings took guard, CSK were in deep trouble at 101 for 3 in 11.3 overs. They needed 104 runs off 51 deliveries. Billings got the rolling from the outset and looked extremely comfortable.
Then there was his lightening footwork against the spinners which was reminiscent of a young Michael Clarke while his fidgety mannerisms at the crease had a bit of Steve Smith in it. It is always mesmerising to watch an English batsman play spin so effectively. In the 16th over, which was Narine’s last he showed that in addition to pure talent and ball-hitting ability he also has a cool head on his shoulders.
At times, a batsman does make mistake in picking the bowler to attack. One may be in good form, but good ball and bowlers need to be respected. One just cannot afford to throw his wicket away under crunch situations. He recognised that Narine had been KKR’s most dangerous bowler.
And while he couldn’t afford to play dot balls as Dhoni had been doing but he couldn’t afford to throw his wicket away either, so he milked him into gaps, converting ones into doubles before launching Andre Russell, the less threatening of the two bowlers in the next over for two sixes. He was astute in his approach and showed how a cool mind can snatch wins from imminent jaws of defeat.
While Billings couldn’t take them over the line, he did put them within touching distance of a remarkable win. Not many expected CSK to pull it off after 12 overs of play, but Billings very tangibly managed to transfer pressure back on Kolkata from the moment he arrived at the crease. His urgency at the crease itself made KKR panic and make all sorts of error, both tactically and on the field. KKR panicked and the result was there for everyone to be seen. He may have not hit the winning runs, but set the stage perfectly for a scintillating win. In saying so, no credit is being taken away from Jadeja, who finished the game for CSK. But Billings was the architect here.
Billings can do wonders for CSK if given a longer rope. One wouldn’t be wrong to say that most of the impactful CSK players have past their prime. They need someone like Billings, who is belligerent and can influence the batting line-up in the middle. CSK are now high on confidence with two back-to-back wins in two games. But one shouldn’t forget, both the games were won by different batsmen single-handedly. As a unit, they need to pull their socks up and deliver collectively.