Ravindra Jadeja "hadn't felt the sun for about five months" during his long recovery from a knee injury and surgery that had sidelined him since August last year, a period that he said was "tough" and "frustrating".
Jadeja returned to action just in time for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia, which begins on February 9 in Nagpur, successfully testing his fitness in a Ranji Trophy game for Saurashtra. He bowled 41.1 overs against Tamil Nadu and took eight wickets, including a seven-for, and made scores of 15 and 25.
"When I went to the ground on the first day, it felt weird," Jadeja told BCCI.tv. "I hadn't felt the sun for about five months because I was training indoors and in the gym. I wondered if my body would sustain 90 overs out in the sun on the first day.
"The first day was very tough, especially in the Chennai heat. But my body got used to it eventually on day 2 and 3. Then I felt that I was fit, and I could play four-day or five-day cricket. That game went well, and I picked up wickets, too. A player needs such confidence ahead of a big series, and luckily I got that. I feel good about coming back after preparation, and touchwood, whatever happens hereon will be good."
Jadeja injured his right knee during the Asia Cup last August, and said he had to take a decision on when to have surgery.
"I was struggling with my knees and had to get a surgery done. I had to take a decision whether I had to do it before the [T20] World Cup or after the World Cup," he said. "The doctor suggested I get it done before the World Cup because even if I had not got it operated, chances of me playing in the World Cup was very less. So I made up my mind and went under the knife."
Jadeja: 'The two months after injury was very tough'
Jadeja had surgery in early September, and said his recovery period was "a bit up and down," as he missed the T20 World Cup and all of India's subsequent fixtures.
"It is frustrating to be away from cricket for five months, and I was waiting eagerly to get fit and play for India," he said. "The period after surgery was tough - I had to undergo a lengthy rehab and training. There were thoughts about when I will get fit.
"When you watch matches on TV, I was imagining myself there and realising what I was missing and wished I was there. Those things, though, motivate you to get fit quicker by undergoing rehab and training, strengthen my knees and make a comeback."
Jadeja spent a lot of time at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, where he underwent most of his rehab. "The physios and trainers at NCA worked a lot on my knees, and gave me enough time. NCA used to be shut on Sundays but they used to come down for me and especially help me out.
"I used to shuttle between the NCA [Bengaluru] and home [Rajkot] every two-three weeks to keep my mind fresh and help me recover soon. But the two months after injury was very tough, because I was unable to walk and neither could go anywhere. My friends and family helped me in that critical phase.
"In fact, the trainers at NCA also boosted my confidence. Whenever I used to complain about the pain and put it off, they used to tell me, 'Do it for the country, not for you'. I felt good that they were very serious about my knee and wanted me to get back on the field soon."
Jadeja is now poised to made his comeback for India in the first Test against Australia, where he could line up alongside R Ashwin and Axar Patel if India choose to play three spinners in Nagpur.