Speaking to Saj (for The Cricket Paper), England batsman looked forward to his stint at the IPL and spoke about his aspirations of playing more games for his country.
By Saj Sadiq (29th January, 2019)
The Indian Premier League continues to set new standards for franchise-based Twenty20 cricket in terms of quality and financial rewards for the participants. To be selected for such a prestigious tournament is a major achievement and if the total spend of close to £11.5 million on players for the 2019 edition is any yardstick, the tournament is heading from strength to strength with each passing year. For Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone, being picked for the IPL team Rajasthan Royals was a surprise but also a dream come true as he explained.
"I was totally surprised by my selection for the IPL. I had obviously heard a lot of things about the tournament and had to send off different things so that people involved with the various teams can have a look at you but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be picked up, so when I was picked, it was a really nice surprise for me. It’s something I have always wanted to do and I am sure other cricketers would have the same goal. But, yes, I have heard endless amounts of good things about the IPL so I am looking forward to going out there.”
To be part of the team who were the title winners in the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008 must be a matter of great pride for 25-year-old Livingstone and he makes no secrets about his keenness to play in the world’s top Twenty20 tournament, “I know that there are three other English lads in the Rajasthan side which is nice for me so at least I will have some familiar faces in the environment when I get there. I have spoken to Jos Buttler who has been very complimentary of the team environment, so, yes, I am looking forward to getting amongst it all and out there and seeing what the IPL is all about,” he added.
2019 will also be the first year that Liam Livingstone will be taking part in the Pakistan Super League which will be played in the UAE and Pakistan. With the start of Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 tournament now just a few weeks away, Livingstone is looking forward to participation in the PSL and is very pleased that it was the great Pakistani fast-bowler Wasim Akram who had a huge hand in his selection for the Karachi Kings.
“I am delighted to have been chosen by Karachi Kings for the upcoming PSL tournament. I have heard a lot of good things about this competition and it’s great that the tournament is being played in Dubai and Pakistan. I played in Dubai against Pakistan A before Christmas so hopefully I have a little bit of experience of playing there and that should help me going into the tournament. I am also grateful to Wasim Akram for his role in getting me selected for Karachi Kings. I am sure my good performance for Lancashire in a game against Yorkshire last year in UAE which Wasim Akram watched would have helped in my selection for Karachi. I am really looking forward to finishing off my training here and getting over to Dubai to play in the PSL which starts in a few weeks time.”
To work with Karachi Kings’ Mickey Arthur, who is Pakistan’s Head Coach and widely regarded as one of the top professionals in his field is bound to be a great opportunity for Livingstone and a great learning experience as well. “To have a national coach in-charge of our team will be great fun for us. I have heard a lot of good reports about Mickey Arthur as a coach and am sure there will be plenty to learn from his experience. It will of course be a little different for me to be a franchise player in an overseas tournament and to experience the pressures that come along with that. So, I am looking forward to that opportunity in the PSL, both in terms of the on and off the field experiences, “ he added.
The fervour and enthusiasm for the game of cricket which is found in Pakistan does not have many parallels and for Livingstone the chance to play in Karachi and Lahore will be an experience he is looking forward to.
“The games in Pakistan will be great fun as the atmosphere in the ground will be unbelievable and it will be great to see the local audiences getting to see top-quality cricket. Our last two group games of the PSL are in Karachi, so I would love to be able to go out there. I have been told that Pakistan is a beautiful country and it would be a great experience to play where the grounds have a lot of passion and are full of people who love cricket. I do feel that it’s very exciting for the PSL to be going back to Pakistan and yes I would jump at the opportunity to get out to Pakistan and play in the stadiums in a country where cricket is like a religion.”
With the popularity of the Twenty20 format now challenging the established Test and ODI formats, the world of cricket is also being given a taste of the ten-over version of the game with the tournament in UAE but is that the future of cricket? To Livingstone, T10 or any newer format will be a success as long as it provides entertainment for the masses.
“We saw some of the T10 games in the UAE as we were in the area as part of the England Lions side at the time the tournament was being played and it seemed like great fun with a very high tempo and everything happens very quickly in this format. As a cricketer, at the moment, there are loads of different competitions like the T10, Twenty20 and then we have the 100-ball competition coming in as well and of course there is One-Day cricket too. With so many types of format being played, it’s a great time to be involved in cricket. To me, it doesn’t matter what format of the game is being played as long as we keep on enjoying the game. I am sure new formats and innovations will come up in the future as well and will prove to be popular with the crowds as well.”
The ECB’s 100-ball competition which is expected to start in 2020 is a new format which excites Livingstone and like many English players will be looking forward to this version of the popular franchise-based cricket to be played in their own backyard, “From what I have heard about the 100-ball format, it promises to be a great competition. It will be great to have franchise cricket over here in England but in terms of the experience, I guess we won’t really know what it will be like until we start playing in it. However, anything new like the 100-ball format can only be good for the game and I don’t see why it won’t be a success when it starts.”
To be compared to the now retired England and Lancashire’s famed all-rounder Andrew Flintoff would indeed be an honour for any young player as is the case for Livingstone. However, the current Lancashire all-rounder feels that comparisons to Flintoff are premature until he starts to grow as a cricketer and realise his potential.
“I don’t read too much into such comparisons like the ones between Flintoff and myself. I see Freddie when he brings his kids to Old Trafford in the summer and he is a massive hero of mine and I have always looked up to him. To be mentioned in the same sentence as him is obviously great but the fact is that I don’t look to be or want to be someone else. What I do want to do is to keep on learning and developing my game and hopefully in years to come I can start to fulfil my potential as well.”
Lancashire have had a proud history over the years and for Livingstone, the current side has all the ingredients to win more trophies and he has no doubts about the aims and what the future will bring for this talented group of players.
“Our aims are simple which are that we want to win as many tournaments and trophies as we can and do what is needed to achieve those objectives. We have an exciting group of young local lads with a blend of experience and we have brought in some great overseas additions too. So, we have an exciting squad at Lancashire and hopefully we will keep on building on that. Our white-ball cricket was a bit of a plus from the year before last and hopefully we can turn our red-ball cricket around as well and make a massive push in all three competitions we will be involved in this season.”
To tour with the England Lions has long been considered a precursor to a possible place in the senior side. For Livingstone, the experience he has gained from his association with the England Lions is simply invaluable and is something which will hold him in good stead in the future.
“The good thing about playing for the England Lions is that you get an opportunity to travel the world and to play in countries you wouldn’t usually get the chance to play in. So, I have been away on tour to the West Indies, Sri Lanka and to the UAE as well. It’s a great environment to learn new skills and hopefully that experience in the UAE has given me an idea of what sort of conditions to expect in the upcoming tournaments like PSL and hopefully I have learnt a few things that I can put into practice in the future too.”
Despite his talent and good performances, Livingstone has represented England in only two T20Is against South Africa in 2017. With the experience of IPL and PSL under his belt soon, he'll be looking to further improve his international record but feels that his real goal is to represent his country in the longest format of the game, “Every cricketer wishes to play for their country and my ultimate aim is to play Test cricket for England. I had some experience of that as I was in the England Test squad a year ago for the series against New Zealand, so yes, the idea is to keep learning and developing as a player and keep working as hard as I can and hopefully that opportunity to represent England will come around once again.”