For Sam Billings, Kent is home.
The 30-year-old has played all around the world. Whether it be the Pakistan Super League (PSL), the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Big Bash League (BBL) or even for England, Billings is a wanted man by teams all over the globe and that can only be a testament to the man himself.
But playing for Kent is different. It means more to Billings, more than anything else.
“I have said numerous times that when I come back and play for Kent it is a different feeling,” he says, looking onto the outfield at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.
“At the end of the day, cricket is our job, and certain aspects around the world see it as just that, really. You are an asset that is paid to do a job, but for Kent it is a lot more than that.
“I am not necessarily here as much as I would like and as the Club would like, but I am still ‘on the job’ 24/7 in terms of doing the stuff behind the scenes.
“Kent is home – you always come home eventually, whether it is playing for England or around the world. Of course this is more special than all of that. There is a lot of cricket, but I will keep coming back. This is home, and pulling the shirt on is absolutely the most important thing.”
Born in the county, it was always a dream of Billings’ to represent Kent, and he has eclipsed that. He’s a Capped Player (212), has scored many match-winning innings, and was appointed Club Captain ahead of the 2018 season. He went on to lead the Spitfires at a Lords’ final that year – which he remembers very well.
“One of my proudest moments as a cricketer was leading the team out for the Lord’s final in 2018,” he says. “I remember seeing my old man in the Long Room and that was really special.
“I am a Kent bloke through and through. I have been at the Club a very long time and we are all fans as much as players at the end of the day. It is our job, but it means a lot, especially for the guys that have grown up here and learnt our cricket here.”
Kent may have only been runners-up on that occasion, but Billings has another chance to lead the Spitfires to glory this weekend.
Kent will go into Vitality Blast Finals Day on Saturday full of confidence after a dominant group stage campaign and a comfortable Quarter Final win, and Billings insists it is where the Club belongs.
“It has been too long from a Kent point of view in terms of being back on the big stage,” he says. “We need to be doing it more consistently and we have the quality in the room to do that. It will be special for me but very special for the other 10 guys as well, so we are ready for it.
“Watching it on TV is really unenjoyable, thinking ‘we are a better side than these guys, we really should be there’. But that is why the game keeps dragging us back – it’s about chasing something as an individual but also as a team.
“We are in a really good spot to put our best foot forward and give it as good ‘a go’ as we ever have done.”
And Billings backs the supporters to deliver at Edgbaston, too.
He smiles, and says: “Hopefully we get the same kind of support as the Quarter Final. It was probably the best atmosphere I have played in front of at Canterbury, in terms of the volume but also the engagement in the cricket.
“We know that everyone loves their cricket in this part of the world but to get that kind of support for the team really makes a difference.
“We are very fortunate we are one of the counties where travelling support is as good as anyone and we are looking forward to hopefully putting on a show for our Kent fans on Finals Day.”
No one knows what will happen in Birmingham. It is bound to be a day full of nerves, excitement, and mental toughness. But Billings is ready; ready to give his all, deliver for not just his team but his county, and bring the trophy back to Kent.
By Lewis Browning