When Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) made an uncontested bid of INR 50 lakh for New Zealand's pace all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, they confirmed the cricketer's return to Indian Premier League (IPL) after six long years.
Neesham last played the league in 2012 for the Delhi franchise and had since found no buyers at successive auctions and once wasn't able to take part despite being bought in by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for the 2015 season due to injury.
KXIP's vote of confidence was also a sign of a turnaround in the man's career. The 29-year-old wasn't picked for the 2015 World Cup and contemplated retirement after the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Things then changed for the better, as he found peace playing the sport once again and began enjoying turning up at the domestic level, which ultimately led to a comeback and a strong one at that, in the kiwi limited-overs outfit.
Hence, Neesham feels his IPL return has perhaps happened at just the right time.
“It is my first time getting involved in a long time. It is exciting to come as an older player and as an experienced player. Last time I played for Delhi, I was young and talented but didn’t really know much about my game,” he told PTI.
“I did not know what I needed to do to succeed. It was a challenge back then."
“This time I have come with a steadier head and knowledge under the belt and hopefully I can pass that knowledge to some of the younger guys in the squad."
"Really excited about our team, we got some of the biggest names in the world in Chris Gayle and Glenn Maxwell and it is a team that can certainly win a lot of games and the tournament."
Having reached UAE, Neesham is currently going through the necessary quarantine at the team hotel in Dubai and can only train when he gives three successive negative COVID-19 tests in this period.
The cricketer, though, isn't complaining much. "A little bored but getting the job done," he said. "Back home we are lucky it has not been as bad a lot of other countries. The quarantine is a necessary evil I guess. It is not really challenging."
“There is plenty of people around the world who are doing a lot tougher than staying in the hotel room and ordering room service for six days. So yeah, take it on the chin and get it done basically."
Neesham was on the same plane as his New Zealand captain Kane Williamson while flying across to the gulf. Williamson, the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) player, had expressed concerns when members of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were tested positive. Neesham, however, is carrying no apprehensions leading into the tournament.
“It is natural to have a little bit of, not anxiety but a bit of worry about everything getting underway successfully but it is not a negative feeling at all."
“The feeling is more of excitement and getting back to playing cricket. It is an unusual setting (bio-bubble), new country and different rules but still the same game," he said, adding that he kept his focus on retaining fitness levels during the extended lockdown and is looking forward to the training phase.
“The focus was to get as fit as I have ever been. Unfortunately, with the restrictions, there has not been enough opportunities to hit and bowl a lot of balls, so looking forward to that after quarantine," he signed off.
The IPL 2020 kickstarts on September 19.