Tim Seifert could barely hold back his tears when he opened up about his experience of testing positive for Covid-19 in the first half of this year's IPL. After recovering from the infection, Seifert found joy again. He married his girlfriend, Morgan Croasdale, and went back on the road again for stints with the Knight Riders franchises in the CPL, and more recently the second half of the IPL. He is now preparing to feature in his first ICC event for the New Zealand senior side, as their front-line wicketkeeper.
"[I've] had some great times. Obviously, getting married," Seifert recalled, speaking recently during his time back with Kolkata Knight Riders. "Some not-so-great times with the Covid, but it feels a wee while ago now. Obviously, a lot has happened since, and also kind of understanding that once I got over the first few days and then getting out of India, you reflect and the emotions aren't quite there as they were at that time because you got over it.
"It's nice to be back playing and in a team environment, but also it was a great couple of months to just relax. I think the wedding and spending time with family made it even [more] special with what happened a couple of months before."
With no room at the top of the Trinbago Knight Riders order, Seifert, who usually opens for New Zealand, slotted into the middle order for a second successive CPL season. In a game against St Lucia Kings on a deteriorating Basseterre track, where finding the fence was particularly difficult, Seifert made it look ridiculously easy, cracking eight boundaries in 16 balls, scoring 40 not out.
He walked in to bat after Kieron Pollard had holed out for nine off 11 balls, with Knight Riders still needing 56 off 21. Seifert took 14 runs off the 18th over, 20 off the 19th, and narrowed it down to six to win off the last ball. He couldn't get the job done, though, and he admonished himself for it, flinging away his gloves in frustration after swinging and missing the final ball.
"To get us so close, it was awesome as a player to get your team in the situation to win the game again," Seifert said, "but also you get so close that you want to win it and then you don't. It was awesome for my confidence, but gutted I couldn't get that six off the last ball."
Still, that innings provided evidence of his adaptability and experience of playing on spin-friendly tracks, qualities that could serve him well at the T20 World Cup in the UAE.
Seifert often doubled up as Knight Riders' finisher along with the finisher and his captain there, Pollard. Seifert had the best seat in the house - at the non-striker's end - when Pollard walloped 33 off a nine-ball stretch in the last two overs of the innings in a whirlwind 62-run fifth-wicket partnership they put on against Jamaica Tallawahs.
"I started off my career in that middle order for Northern Districts and my first few tours with the Black Caps was in the middle order as well," Seifert said. "Obviously been at the top of the order, but I've had that experience in the middle order.
"Yeah [batting] with one the best finishers in the world - it was great. It was just awesome to go out there and work away off his brain - when to attack and when not to attack, and pick the balls to go. It was awesome to be at the other end watching these massive sixes. Sometimes you try to hit them as far, but you know you're definitely not [hitting as far]!"
Seifert missed the 50-over World Cup in England in 2019 with injury and subsequently needed two surgeries and a bone graft out of his wrist to fix his little finger. Around that time, the feedback from the team management was that he needed to improve his keeping. He reached out to his idol Brendon McCullum, who has since overseen his progress as a keeper.
"He talked about the coach he used over in Australia," Seifert said, "but things just didn't work out [for me to train with him]. So Baz said, 'He taught me, so I can kind of teach you.' It's nothing dramatic that we changed - just nailing down those basics, and I've found huge improvement over the last 12 months in my keeping."
Seifert is hoping to harness the time spent with McCullum and work his way into the New Zealand Test side as the second wicketkeeper.
"Tom Blundell has done a great job, so he'll probably take over the reins [from the retired BJ Watling] and it's definitely something I want to do - pushing for that second wicketkeeper's spot for Tests. I think in any conditions my game has improved behind the stumps, and it has been awesome to talk to Brendon no matter where I'm travelling around the world, about the conditions he faced."
Most recently at the IPL, Seifert received his maiden cap from McCullum, as Sunil Narine wiped away imaginary tears beside them. Seifert managed only two off four balls against Punjab Kings, but he believes batting against team-mates, mystery spinners Narine and Varun Chakravarthy, on practice pitches that tend to spin more than the ones rolled out for games, has prepared him for the World Cup.
"I think it has been great being over here [in the UAE], preparing, and watching what the wickets are doing," Seifert said. "Played one game here [at the IPL], but been looking at what the scores are... I think that has been crucial and hopefully I get to see the result in the World Cup with that experience and knowing what's going to happen, but also at the same time, the wickets could change.
"Not only facing Sunny [Narine], Varun and Akeal [Hosein, net bowler] here - we've got some great net bowlers that are great spinners and slower bowlers as well.
"Sometimes the training wickets can be a little bit more tired than in the game, which is a positive as well. I don't think the preparation could be any better, but hopefully the results come out where you get the job done and that's on the field."
One of Seifert's staple shots in white-ball cricket is the scoop, which often invites risk, but he has learnt to embrace it. "I haven't done a huge amount of [work on the scoop] in the nets," he said. "It's more of back-yourself. When you've got a gut feeling of them [opposition attack] just going to hit a yorker or bang it away on a length, it's a gut feel that this is what they're going to do. I don't really practise it too much, but it's a great thing to have.
"Sometimes you get out doing that but that's just the risk you take, because if you do hit that for four or six, that definitely changes his length and puts them under pressure. So [it's] like any shot - doesn't always come off, but definitely feels good when it does."
If it does come off more often for Seifert, he could set the scene for the middle order and push New Zealand closer to their first goal of reaching the semi-finals.
"I think there are a lot of teams that have a good chance at this World Cup, so hopefully we do well and we just play our best cricket and get to the semi-finals," he said. "Another little tournament starts in itself [after the semi-finals]. We've got a tough pool, especially on these Asian kind of wickets, but we have the players and skill sets to beat these guys as well. We just hope we play our best cricket on the day and the rest will tell."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo