Published: 06:00, 17 September 2021
Skipper Sam Billings insists representing Kent Spitfires is more special for him than playing anywhere else.
Billings will hope to lead the Spitfires to glory this Saturday at the T20 Blast finals day at Edgbaston.
The Pembury-born wicket-keeper - a lifelong Kent fan who has been at the club since he was eight - has played franchise cricket around the globe, recently agreeing to return to Sydney Thunder for the next edition of the Big Bash League in Australia.
He has also played in the Indian Premier League, England’s T20 and One-Day International sides and captained Oval Invincibles during The Hundred.
But Billings said: “When I come back and play for Kent, it’s a different feeling.
“At the end of the day, cricket is our job and you see certain other aspects around the world as that really. You’re an asset that is paid to score runs, take catches and take wickets or whatever it is.
“But for Kent, it’s a lot more than that.
"Even though I’m not necessarily here as much as I would like, or as the club would like, I’m still on the job 24/7 in terms of doing stuff behind the scenes.
“Yes, of course it means a lot. This is why we play the game and it's home.
“You always come home eventually, whether it’s from playing for England or around the world. This is definitely more special.
“The opportunities players get nowadays are incredible. Imagine a Darren Stevens or someone like that in a different era, I’m sure he would have loved to have had the opportunities we have all had, certainly in the last few years.
“The game has changed. It’s a lot of cricket!
"But this is home and putting the shirt on is the most important thing.”
Billings, 30, is expecting a tough semi-final against Sussex Sharks before the winner will face Hampshire Hawks or Somerset in the final.
All teams involved on finals day are from the South group, which Kent won, and Billings thinks they should take confidence from that.
He said: “From a mindset point-of-view, having won the group and having four South teams there, we can take confidence from that knowing, if we play our best cricket, we will be fine.
“If we stick to the process that has allowed us to play so consistently, we will be absolutely fine.
"I think one of our biggest strengths is our fielding. It makes a difference mentally because, as a batter, you think ‘Jeez, wherever I hit this, these guys are right on it’.
“Fielding is such a show of attitude and mindset.
“Batting and bowling, you can kind of get away with showing up on the day.
"But fielding really is a display of mindset as a team.”
Billings, who thinks he was playing club cricket for Hartley as a 16-year-old when Kent last won the competition in 2007, accepts there is more responsibility on him as captain to perform.
“I think that suits my character," he said.
"I enjoy being in these big games. It’s something, hopefully, I can thrive off on finals day.”