Kolkata: Sam Billings, the experienced wicketkeeper-batsman of England who joined the Delhi Capitals franchise for IPL this season, recalled he was awestruck at the first sight of a young Rishabh Pant about five seasons back. Pant, Indian cricket’s flavour of the season, will be leading the Delhi franchise in the absence of Shreyas Iyer - who has been ruled out with a shoulder dislocation.
“I remember the first time I saw Rishabh play. We had a middle practice and he was hitting bowlers like Chris Morris, Nathan Coulter-Nile and lot of other bowlers everywhere and then I asked Rahul Dravid (then Delhi franchise mentor), ‘Who is this guy?’. And now we all know who Rishabh Pant is and I actually said back then that he’s probably the best young player I have ever seen.
‘‘We have seen what he does on a regular basis in the India shirt and also in the Delhi shirt. I am really happy for him and he will go from strength to strength,” said Billings, who was a part of the Delhi franchise in 2016-2017 season.
Billings, who enjoys the reputation of a T20 franchise cricket specialist, has scored 3527 runs, taken 107 catches and effected 17 stumpings in 187 T20 matches. “It’s great to be back at the IPL. There are a great group of players and the DC camp has been very welcoming. I am very excited to be here,’’ said the 29-year-old, who has played for Chennai Super Kings apart from the Delhi franchise in their past and current avatar and had been a part of Pakistan Super League as well.
The 29-year-old - who was offered a trial by Tottenham Hotspur as a teenager and plays decent tennis as well - is hoping to win the IPL 2021 with the Delhi Capitals this year, “I love the IPL. It’s one of the best competitions in the world and the buzz around the IPL is something that you can’t get anywhere else in the world, so I am just looking forward to playing in the tournament again. My game has improved a lot since I last played for Delhi. Hopefully, we can kick on as a group and win the competition this year.”