VRV Singh, the Punjab fast bowler, marked his return to first-class cricket after an absence of five years with a five-wicket haul against Haryana in Lahli. He last featured in a first-class match in the 2007-08 season, taking ten wickets in North Zone's Duleep Trophy triumph, but a series of injuries - first to the foot and the ankle, then a more serious one to the back - threatened to cut his career short.
"It feels great, because that's (playing cricket) what I wanted to do," VRV Singh told ESPNcricinfo after the first day's play in Lahli. "Hopefully, I can continue the performance as we go forward in the season."
During his prolonged absence from first-class cricket, VRV Singh did play a handful of domestic T20s, the last one in March 2012, almost a year after his back surgery, but then he disappeared again. On Thursday, bowling in top-flight domestic cricket for the first time in 20 months, he didn't look like the fittest cricketer, but then as coach Bhupinder Singh Sr had said at the start of the season, he proved to be the "surprise package". VRV Singh made the batsmen play and got rewards, bowling a spell of 16-4-38-5.
"I had some issues with my back, on which I had undergone surgery in the past," he said. "I was recovering from it and was working on my fitness. Early September, I started playing a few one-day matches in the local tournaments."
His return was carefully managed, according to Bhupinder, because the team didn't want to rush VRV's re-entry. He performed well in the last two matches of the inter-district tournament one month prior to the Ranji season, but Bhupinder said the team wanted to start with an attack that did well in the previous season.
"There are always question marks on fitness when you don't have much cricket behind you," Bhupinder said. "That's why we wanted to be very sure that the ones we take in should last the entire season. We played some practice matches and he [VRV Singh] did well, so we hoped he would last the whole season."
"He is a good bowler and he is coming back from injury after three years. He bowled tight lines and it was a good performance. I am happy for him."
VRV Singh, who has played five Tests for India, said the last few years had been tough, but he was hoping to find his groove. "I was ready for the struggle, that's what you have to do if you want to play cricket. It was just a start today and as we go forward, hopefully the rhythm, fitness and the pace will improve further."