Sam Billings: 'I'm 100% ready and I will give it absolutely everything'
Keeper-batter says he's been guaranteed white-ball games in Caribbean after coming to Test squad's rescue
is keen to grasp the unexpected opportunity of a potential Test debut in Hobart later this week, although his thoughts will quickly return to pinning down a place in England's white-ball teams.
Billings embarked on a 500-mile road trip to join up with England's Ashes squad shortly after being told not to get on a plane back to the UK
. Having finished his stint with Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, Billings had been due to travel home ahead of England's T20I series against West Indies in the Caribbean, before injuries to Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, the two frontline Test wicketkeepers in Australia, forced a change of plan.
His likely involvement in Hobart means Billings will miss England's opening T20I in Barbados on January 22 - but he said had received assurances from the ECB of being picked for the rest of the series after agreeing to come to the Test team's rescue.
"I am 100% ready if required, and I will give absolutely everything I can," he told reporters in Sydney, where England secured a dramatic draw in the fourth Test. "My game is in a good place. It has been in the longer format for the last three years for Kent.
"I have been playing consistent cricket and scoring runs. It doesn't really matter what format it is, it's more about rhythm, confidence and mindset. Like any side I go into I will try to make a positive impact on and off the field, in any environment I am put into.
"The three guys [Buttler, Bairstow and Ben Stokes] who came out to bat in Sydney with injuries, that's incredible courage, and exactly what everyone involved in English cricket is about - playing for each other and that resilience. There's a lot of inspiration we can take from that as a group, that character and over-my-dead-body attitude."
While a regular in England's white-ball squads over the years, Billings has rarely had an extended run in either the T20I or ODI sides. The absence of Buttler and Bairstow for the West Indies trip meant he was first in line to keep wicket, and he said that Ashley Giles, England's managing director of men's cricket, had agreed to his request to play.
"I've done way too much running the drinks," he said. "So it was having that real clarity I wasn't going to compromise that opportunity in the West Indies. Gilo agreed to that."
Billings has spoken previously of his ambitions to play Test cricket
, although his proficiency on the T20 circuit has limited his chances to press a case - in the last three years, he has played just 10 Championship games for Kent, averaging 44.58 with three hundreds.
"It's a hard one," he said. "As a non-contract [England] player, you have to try and maximise those opportunities, because you don't have that fallback of knowing you'll be picked in the next squad. Being constantly in that mindset isn't very healthy. Playing in those T20 leagues, the great thing is you get signed as an overseas player and you get valued in that environment. You know you're going to play a run of games and it's great."
He also said that the performance of Usman Khawaja, a team-mate at Sydney Thunder, had provided a source of inspiration. Khawaja returned to the Australia Test XI for the first time in two-and-a-half years and proceeded to score centuries in each innings at the SCG.
"He was very honest and said: 'I wasn't sure if this opportunity would come again.' As you've seen, that's how to grab an opportunity. Hopefully I can take some inspiration from him. You have got nothing to lose and everything to gain."