England’s Sam Billings might not be part of IPL team Chennai Super Kings anymore, but he cherishes his two years with the franchise, especially his equation with India wicketkeeper and CSK captain MS Dhoni.
Billings was released by the franchise ahead of the 2020 IPL auction, right before he announced his decision to take a break from franchise cricket in a bid to focus on red-ball cricket. The 29-year-old had joined the team as a replacement player in 2018, playing ten games in CSK’s title triumph, but managed only one appearance last year.
“I absolutely loved my two years at CSK,” Billings told Cricbuzz. “The success in which the environment has had consistently over the time is unmatched really, probably only Mumbai have kind of been as consistent as CSK. To get a winners medal of the IPL is something that I really cherished.
“For me, that experience, learning from those great players … the overseas guys but also the homegrown Indian stars. I mean, no bigger star than MS Dhoni in terms of my role that I want to fulfil.
“There is no better person to learn of than MSD. For me, it was great to pick his brains and enjoy the environment he has created there.”
Billings revealed how he closely observed Dhoni in the nets, picking his brains to expand his own game, as a batsman, wicketkeeper and captain, applying some of his leadership mantras at Kent. The two players found a common interest in football, and, both being Manchester United fans, followed matches together to further strengthen their bond.
“He is a big Man United fan, which really helps, as am I,” Billings said. “He always invited me, there’s a few Man United fans around. So whenever the game was on, we used to go to his room and watch there. It was pretty cool just to talk about cricket and learn of him really, and see how he goes about his business, whether it’s practice or in games.
“For me, as well, my third year of captaincy at Kent, I think that’s the most incredible thing … how he talks to his players, especially the young players. They have the utmost respect and trust in him but he also trusts people as well and allows them to really thrive in the environment.
“In a nutshell, general chat, sharing a net with him and asking him, ‘What you would try and do against this bowler’, and chucking ideas around. That was really helpful for me.”