Derbyshire County Cricket Club’s Billy Godleman
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As the cricket season gets underway Nigel Powlson talks to Derbyshire County Cricket Club’s Billy Godleman
IT is hard to imagine a better year for Derbyshire opening batsman Billy Godleman.
The 27-year-old enjoyed his best season ever in 2015, scoring 1,415 runs across all formats. He gained his county cap in September, was Derbyshire’s leading LV= County Championship run scorer, was awarded a new two-year contract and was named Derbyshire’s Player of the Year at the end of season awards. No wonder that Derbyshire’s elite performance director Graeme Welch said he was playing ‘the best cricket of his life’.
The unassuming cricketer is now eager to add to his growing reputation as Derbyshire prepares for the 2016 season but took time out from pre-season training to reflect with Derbyshire Life on a remarkable 12 months.
Billy had success in all three formats of the game but it was in red ball cricket that he made the strongest impression with 1,069 runs at an average of 45, including three centuries. He ended the season as the fifth highest run scorer in Division Two of the County Championship.
He said: ‘Last season went really well for me personally and I was very pleased with the way I was able to contribute to the team consistently over the course of the season.
‘Most importantly, I was able to play several innings that helped the club save or win a game of cricket.
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‘Scoring a thousand runs is an achievement I’m proud of but it only really matters when that helps the team.’
Having made his first class debut for Middlesex, Billy moved to Essex and then to Derbyshire for the start of the 2013 season. The former England under 19 cricketer has shown plenty of promise in his career but last season found consistency to go with his talent.
He says: ‘It’s not something I have been previously able to do. I have played well in games but it has been sporadic. To play consistently across a season is something I’m proud to have done.’
So what has been the catalyst for such a fine spell of form?
Billy says: ‘Graeme Welch has been very important in me being able to do that. During the winter months we were able to work on my strengths as a player and then he gave me free rein to go out there and perform and trust what we had highlighted.
‘People do ask me why I have done so well and often want a one sentence answer where I just wish it was that simple. It’s a culmination of things, I feel. I’m in my mid 20s and I’m more mature as a human being. I have played ten years of professional cricket and most of that has been really difficult but I have looked at my failures as opportunities to learn and grow as a player.
‘The support I have had from Graeme, his coaching staff and from the captain Wayne Madsen and the players I’m with day-in day-out has helped me greatly.
‘I feel very blessed to be able to play cricket for a living. I love the game and have the opportunity to be involved all the time. I also love the club and have a lot of admiration for the work Graeme does behind closed doors at Derbyshire.’
Despite his success in the county championship, Billy is equally happy in all forms of the game and values T20 and one-day cricket just as highly.
He says: ‘I love to bat full stop. If it was a one-over-a-side game I’d be happy to put my hand up to bat. The traditional four day, first class games – red ball, opening the batting – are what I always wanted to do as a child growing up but I really like the opportunity to show my range of strokes in the short form of the game. I also like the varying scenarios that can occur and the challenges faced by the batsmen in T20. It’s very stimulating to be put in different situations.’
Despite Billy’s fine personal form, overall in 2015 there was a sense of disappointment for Derbyshire, with lots of promise not translated into enough positive results.
Billy says: ‘We were disappointed by some of the results we had last season. Obviously our intention is to win every game of cricket, but it’s also really important to understand where we are as a club and a group.
‘We have some really exciting and naturally gifted cricketers but not a huge host of players with experience and you can’t just buy that. In some of the games we weren’t quite good enough and just fell short. I’m hoping the experiences over the last 12-18 months will put us in good stead as we move forward. I think you will start seeing us winning those kind of games. By being in those situations, failing and being really wired into using that to learn, alongside diligently improving our skill level, that will culminate in us playing more consistent cricket over the next 12, 24, 36 months.’
Billy believes the club is heading in the right direction with the development of the 3aaa County Ground, and the growing interest in the club.
He says: ‘It’s particularly good to see the large number of youngsters who come to support us at day-night games or in the school holidays. It’s a real pleasure to be able to play for them and encourage them.’
It was Billy’s father John, a decent club cricketer, who encouraged his interest in the game.
‘I have a love and passion for football as well and it was that and cricket growing up,’ he says. ‘But football was never going to surpass cricket. ‘My father played to a good standard and ever since I can remember I was at the ground with him, in and out of the changing rooms, being around my dad and watching him play. He was then so supportive of my development, driving me everywhere. He was a really early influence not only in cricket but in life.’
There was also no doubt what Billy’s favourite place in the starting line-up was.
‘I always opened the batting,’ he says. ‘I wanted to get out there in the action straight away.’
He took his inspiration from former South African captain Graeme Smith and Australian batsman Matthew Hayden. ‘Both left handed opening batsmen which I’m sure won’t surprise you,’ he says. ‘I loved watching them as a kid growing up. We were also fortunate at Derbyshire to have the services of Hashim Amla for a month last season and that was, not just for myself but the whole squad, a real benefit. He’s not only an excellent player but such a wise cricket brain and he was so selfless in sharing his knowledge and experiences.’
As well as being named Derbyshire’s Player of the Year, Billy picked up the Most Improved Player award for the 2015 season. He says: ‘I’m incredibly proud. It is a team game and I think that highlights the time and guidance I have had from Graeme and his coaching staff behind the scenes. Without their support that wouldn’t be possible.’
So can Billy take that forward into 2016 and help Derbyshire to a successful season?
He says: ‘One of the reasons I believe I played so consistently last season was by not getting too far ahead of myself. It was about seeing each day as an opportunity to give my all for the club.
‘I don’t have specific goals for myself but what I can tell you is that I will be giving 100 per cent and hope that helps us to win games of cricket.
on top of his game
BILLY Godleman has featured in 102 career first-class fixtures, in total scoring 5,276 runs including nine hundreds and a top score of 130. He has also featured heavily in the one-day formats, appearing in 78 fixtures and scoring over 1,500 runs.
Derbyshire’s elite performance director Graeme Welch said: ‘Billy is in a good place and playing the best cricket of his life. He has done everything we have asked of him and has reaped the benefits with a number of match-winning performances last summer.
‘He has put in the work and continues to improve both as a cricketer and as a person and we hope his form continues for years to come.’
After signing his contract extension Billy said: ‘I’m delighted to commit my future to Derbyshire. Last summer was the best year of my career and I’m pleased to have been able to repay the faith the club has shown in me. I want to continue to improve and play a leading role both on and off the field as we push for success.’
To see all the fixtures and to book tickets go to www.derbyshireccc.com or call 0871 350 1870.