New Delhi: He suffered a career-threatening shoulder dislocation last year and South African off-spinner Dane Piedt says it took a lot out of him to play cricket again and get back to his best on his return to international arena after 16 months.
"I must say a big "thank you" to Shane Jabaar, the ex-Proteas physio and my surgeon Joe de Beer. It was very tough walking into Joe's chamber after that CLT20 injury (in Hyderabad last year), when Cobras had been knocked out. He (De Beer) said it (the surgery) goes one of two ways: "Either your way, or goes the other way that you don't play again. That hit me quite hard, and I never told anyone that until I came back," Piedt, who took four wickets in India's innings, told mediapersons on Thursday.
"It was a tough road. Guys came in and played ahead of me, so I knew it was going to be a long road for me to get back to where I was 16 months ago (when he made an impressive Test debut against Zimbabwe).
"It was really hard on me emotionally, physically, and just to get back today and get four wickets, is really, really a dream come true," a visibly satisfied Piedt said.
Asked about the comeback, Piedt jokingly said: "When I came back for the Cape Cobras, I think I went for 3 for 3000 (laughs) . It was quite tough coming back, but getting that opportunity to play in Kerala with the South Africa A side (vs India A) really gave me a lot of confidence going forward, and I knew that I was close to my best.
"Now I have showed my ability to take wickets, which is what we are looking for. For me, I am just enjoying every moment representing my country, and doing my best. Playing, whether for my franchise or the national team, I just want to do my best, and the results will help me either way," said the 25-year-old.
He said that the two four-day games against India A at Wayanad (in Kerala) helped him get a hang of the sub-continental conditions.
"It helped me a hell of a lot, playing in Kerala was really good. Beautiful ground as well. It was good wickets, similar to the surface we are playing on today, actually. It was really good to play against India A where I bowled to Karun Nair, one of those very good players of spin.
"It was really good to measure myself against sub-continental players, on my first tour outside of Southern Africa against sub-continent players. Coming away with 12 wickets (on that A tour) was really good for my confidence coming here. Obviously better players in the India ranks, but happy to get the opportunity," said Piedt.
Coming back to the match, Piedt termed it as an even contest so far and also praised the Kotla track.
"The game is still even. It depends on how we bowl tomorrow morning, but if we can keep them under-250, that should be a good score. I think the odd ball is still skidding on, and we are getting the odd one to bounce. It's been a good wicket for everyone today."
The offie even sounded optimistic about the track lasting five days.
"I think so. There were a couple of balls that Morne bowled that took off, so there is a bit of assistance for the seamers. But I don't think it's breaking up like the other wickets. More feet on the wicket and I think it will start gripping, because the odd one did turn once the lacquer came off the ball around the 11th over. I think there is the possibility of going five days. It all depends on how the moving days go, day two and day three," said Piedt.
When asked if he would relish getting an opportunity in Mohali or Nagpur, he said that he would love to live in the present.
"Obviously, the wickets earlier in the series were turning quite a lot. So it would have been nice. But it's my time now and I am trying to use these surfaces as much as I can. It's really nice to be competing against great players. We have a guy in our team called AB de Villiers, who I consider to be the best player of spin in the world. It's really nice going up against him in the net sessions, it helps my skill, and makes me a better bowler."
He has bowled close to 35 overs but he doesn't think that he has been over-bowled.
"If Hash calls you, can't really say "No". I was out for eight months. So taking this opportunity and trying to bowl as much as I can. The more I compete with the batsmen, the more I bowl, the better the chance to get a wicket."
Questioned about bowling with a long on and deep mid-wicket to the new batsman, Piedt said that even Ravichandran Ashwin does that for India.
"Learnt from Ashwin! He does exactly the same with our players. They are quite aggressive, hitting down the ground, so I thought they would try putting me under pressure by hitting me over my head. I told the captain putting a guy out there, and having a guy catching at mid-wicket would stop the game and would help get us wickets. That was the plan, and I think that is the plan going forward," he concluded.