The headband had been on since he arrived in the UK for the start of Afghanistan's World Cup tour, but only later did he smear his cheeks like Rambo. After nearly three years out of international cricket, Hamid Hassan eased his way back into the swing of things throughout the month of May.

He did his warm-up bowling off a few paces, wearing a wool beanie, on a bitterly cold weekend in Edinburgh. A few days later he suited up for his first ODI since July 2016, bowling off a significantly shortened run-up compared to his peak years - when he was the most feared Associate bowler on the planet, before a catastrophic accident robbed him of his share of the glory and financial reward for propelling Afghanistan to ODI status and toward Full Membership.

Even when he took the field in Afghanistan's warm-up win over Pakistan, he didn't fully look like the Hamid Hassan of old. And when he took a wicket with his third ball, getting Imam-ul-Haq to drag onto his stumps, Hamid's usually exuberant spirit was restrained in celebration. But the Stallone-inspired streaks of black, red and green across his dimples against England gave a hint that the old Hamid was back for a final rodeo in one-day cricket.

Hamid will tell you until his face matches the blue of his jersey that he never officially retired. But why was he picked after all this time?

"I have done a lot for Afghanistan in the past. I never give up. Whenever I'm in the ground, I have to give something for the team and for the country."

Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Zahir Khan. Heck, even Qais Ahmad - Afghanistan's conveyor belt of teenage mystery spinners have been massively popular in franchise cricket all over the world. By extension they have brought greater fame to the national team. So it may be hard for some people to appreciate that Afghanistan's standing as a team today owes much to its fast bowlers and their efforts a decade ago.

"My shoulders weren't moving. My legs were gone. I thought the world is over. I thought, 'Hamid, you are dead"

"I'm looking at Hamid like it's back in 2010," said Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib just prior to the warm-up match against Pakistan. Gulbadin should know better than most. He had a front-row seat to the heyday of Hamid from a decade ago.

With the exception of Rashid Khan, nobody has taken wickets at a faster rate for Afghanistan than Hamid. From the start of Afghanistan's ascent from World Cricket League Division Five in 2008 on the isle of Jersey, Hamid was Afghanistan's most consistent threat with the ball in white-ball cricket.

In 50-over matches in particular, he was a dominant force, claiming 58 wickets in 29 games from the start of 2008 Division Five through Afghanistan's maiden ODI 11 months later to cap the 2009 World Cup Qualifier in South Africa. Hamid terrorised the likes of Japan, Cayman Islands and Tanzania along the way from Division Five to Division One, swinging the ball both ways at 145-150kph. Many of the teams he came up against would have been over the moon to field someone who could top 130kph consistently.

The start of 2010 produced one of the iconic moments of his career. Against USA in the 2010 T20 World Cup Qualifier in Dubai, Hamid turned in a Man-of-the-Match performance, striking with his first ball to claim opener Carl Wright, then proceeded to rip through a significant chunk of USA's middle-order to help defend 135 with 3 for 14 in a 29-run win.

One of his trademark inswinging yorkers accounted for USA's most feared hitter, Timroy Allen, a man so confident, he walked out to face Hamid's 90mph bowling without a helmet. Hamid ensured the moment would be preserved forever by doing a split on the pitch with arms stretched out parallel to his legs in celebration, stirring the thousands of Afghan fans present into pandemonium as Afghanistan went on to clinch a spot in the T20 World Cup for the first time.

Hamid conjured up images of Gilgamesh after slaying the Bull of Heaven, standing at a broad-shouldered 6'2", with Popeye's arms and a rugby prop's legs. He was a larger-than-life figure during Afghanistan's early rise.

While Dubai was the venue of one of his greatest triumphs, it was also the scene of a career-altering catastrophe. Less than two years after that win over USA, just when the 24-year-old Hamid should have been entering the prime of his career, everything came crashing down in an exhibition match at the ICC Academy.

Long before franchise T20 leagues became the gateway to greater recognition for the best Associate players in the world, the ICC provided something of a platform in the form of an ICC Combined Associate & Affiliate XI. A group of players from Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, UAE and Namibia were assembled to take on England, then ranked the No. 1 Test side in the world, in a three-day match ahead of England's three-Test series in the UAE against Pakistan in January 2012.

It was early on day two. After the combined side posted 281 batting first, Hamid bowled 11 overs to start the reply, claiming Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott. Lunch was approaching when Boyd Rankin was bowling to Alastair Cook, who drove firmly past Hamid at mid-off for a teasing boundary towards the two-foot-high white picket fencing that encircles the ICC Academy Oval.

"I was quick in fielding, strong arm and strong sprint," Hamid says. "I had bowled 11 overs. My body said 'Leave the ball,' but my mind said, 'No, Hamid you can stop the ball.' I chased to the end, but when I got closer to the boundary, it was not gonna happen. In one moment, my mind said, 'Slide! Stop the ball!' The next moment my mind said, 'No, jump over the fence. Save yourself!'

"I have done a lot for Afghanistan in the past. I never give up. Whenever I'm in the ground, I have to give something for the team and for the country"

"So I went with the second option and jumped over the fence. The right foot crossed but the left foot slightly touched it. I lost my balance and hit my knee on the sightscreen rail grill with the tire. The left knee hit straight. It was the sightscreen rod, the big massive one. I hit it with the full speed."

He had got tangled up at impact with the metal support mechanisms that move the wheeled sightscreen. A long-time ICC employee who was at the match recalls thinking that Hamid might die. Once he regained consciousness, after having passed out initially for several minutes, Hamid thought much the same.

"When I woke, I was face down on the ground," Hamid says. "My shoulders weren't moving. My legs were gone. I thought the world is over. I thought, 'Hamid, you are dead.' I wanted to get up but I couldn't. Luckily my head was safe.

"The game was stopped for a long time. They brought the stretcher. I didn't know I was that hurt. Kabir Khan was there. I remember saying to the coach, 'Can you please give me the ball? I got two wickets, I need to take three more against England. I want to be famous!'

"He said, 'Okay son. Take rest. When you get ready and well, I will give you the ball.' They took me to the hospital. I cried the whole ride for a single injection or tablet to stop the pain. It was unbelievable. I saw my leg. It was a massive purple colour, both legs. I was worried for my right leg, it was massive."

Though the right leg looked worse initially due to the significant swelling and bruising from the collision, it was the left leg that had suffered more serious damage. An MRI revealed a torn anterior-cruciate ligament, requiring reconstructive surgery. The post-operative scene was almost as mentally scarring for Hamid as the accident itself.

"I have big thighs, very strong," Hamid says. "Massive, muscular, a proper bowler, you can say. After the operation, when I see my leg, it was like my hand. I said, 'What the hell? Is that my leg?' I started crying, asking, 'Doctor, what have you done to my knee?' He said, 'After operation, it happens. You need to rebuild.'"

In an overzealous attempt to recover as quickly as possible, Hamid overdid weight and strength training in the first month after the surgery. That caused severe complications that required him to have another surgery a month later, in which, he says, a chunk of his left quadriceps muscle was removed.

"After that I was on crutches for five-six months," Hamid says. The Afghanistan Cricket Board did not have proper sports-science support staff back then. Had they done, Hamid thinks he might have been able to avoid the second operation. "There was no one to guide me, to show me, 'Hamid, take one year or eight months. Do proper rehab. This is the rehab centre. Go and do it.'

"When I did my first operation, they put me very quickly into training. The chairman [of the board] at that time, Nasimullah Danish, he forced me to start training. Even I wanted to start quickly because every player wanted me in the ground quickly."

Hamid has been off the field far more than he has been on it in the years since. Aside from the knee surgeries, he has missed time with hamstring issues as well as surgery for a sports hernia on his right side in 2016. While Mohammad Nabi has played all but one of Afghanistan's 113 ODIs since that game against Scotland in 2009, Hamid has played just 33.

After being named in Afghanistan's squad for a series against Zimbabwe in January 2018, he suffered yet another setback. But just when he might have lost all hope, he says he was inspired watching his team-mates in Zimbabwe at the World Cup Qualifier.

"When I got injured, the people who worked in the ACB, chairman or CEO, they told me many times, 'How do you feel? Do you think you can continue?' They offered me a job also, to work in the ACB, but to be honest, I never ever wanted to sit at home and stop playing cricket.

"But when we qualified, my dream became bigger and I decided. A few months back, I said to Phil Simmons [Afghanistan coach], 'Sir, I want to play some matches in the World Cup and then I have to say goodbye to cricket.' He said, 'No. If you're playing, you have to play all the tournament. Think bigger, don't think smaller.'"

"There were many people talking that he's finished, he's done, he cannot bowl anymore"

So began an intense regimen of fitness training. Hamid even managed to squeeze in sessions in between his stints on air doing TV commentary during the Afghanistan v Ireland Test series in Dehradun last March. As for training his mind, he began reviewing his Sylvester Stallone library of Rocky and Rambo movies to inspire him. He says he has ditched the knee brace he wore from 2012 to 2017 but has shortened his run-up to reduce the pain and strain on his joints as a trade-off for the increased range of motion without the brace.

In spite of the shortened run-up and seven years of injury bad luck, Hamid has still been able to crank it up higher than any of his fast-bowling team-mates on tour. He routinely hustled the Scotland batting order in his first ODI back since 2016 earlier in May, and was clocked at 140kph against England in the warm-up game.

Simmons has tempered his expectations. He might not get the Hamid who took career-best List A figures of 5 for 23 against Simmons' Ireland in 2009. However, Hamid's presence creates a unique dynamic for the team, in that this World Cup will be the first opportunity for him and Rashid Khan to feature consistently in the same XI.

The country's two greatest strike bowlers have only ever featured together once in a completed ODI. Simmons believes Hamid will still be a potent weapon who can bring back balance to a bowling unit that has skewed more towards spin in recent years.

"He is not going to be the Hamid Hassan of eight years back, but he has the ability to bowl in the right areas, he still has good enough pace and he still has the skills," Simmons told ESPNcricinfo in a recent interview. "His lengths are still immaculate, his yorkers are still top of the line. It is just for his body to hold up and go through the tournament, but that is part of how we manage him.

"Other than experience, he has always been a wicket-taker. You need seniors like him and Dawlat [Zadran] to come in in the middle overs and get wickets. Both of them along with Aftab Alam have the capability and skills to take wickets in the middle overs. Combine that with the three spinners and we are good."

After making it through training camps this year in Bengaluru, Dehradun and Potchefstroom, Hamid appeared to be all systems go for England. After taking two wickets against Scotland, though, he suffered a gash on his bowling hand trying to field a return drive in his final over.

It meant he had to frustratingly miss Afghanistan's two ODIs in Ireland, but with some tape protecting his right pinky and ring fingers, he was able to bowl against Pakistan and England in the World Cup warm-ups. It gives him belief he'll be able to stay fit and perform over the next six weeks, starting with Afghanistan's World Cup opener against Australia tomorrow, on his 32nd birthday.

"There were many things and people talking that he's finished," Hamid says. "'He's done. He cannot bowl anymore.' Too many noise and things. Even from close friends inside the cricket board, people who worked in ACB said, 'He's finished.'

"Whenever I see my team-mates playing, it motivated me a lot. And sometimes I watch motivational movies like Rocky, the best movie ever, and I've mentioned it many times. It's still my favourite. It was all the time in my mind: I have to come back in the ground, do my performance. Then I will go."