THERE was a time, just over a year ago, when Davy Jacobs thought he would never again feel the crack of a leather ball on his broad willow bat. In September last year, the Chevrolet Warriors captain was lying in a hospital bed in Bangalore, India, almost 8000km from home, with his future as a cricketer under serious threat.
Hours earlier, Jacobs's troublesome left hip had finally given in. He has no recollection of what transpired in the 10 minutes after he collapsed in a painful heap during a Mumbai Indians training session.
His ligament had been torn off completely, his labrum was also severed and his cartilage was badly damaged.
He does recall breaking down and crying in the dressing room after being taken by stretcher from the nets. He thought to himself: "This is it, I'm done."
He also remembers telling himself that it was not meant to end that way. He still had so much to achieve as a cricketer.
A mere 13 months and a major operation later, Jacobs has scored two 100s in the Warriors' first three Sunfoil Series matches. The first 100 against the Titans resulted in an opening game victory, while the second was in a losing cause against the Cobras, in Paarl, at the weekend. But Jacobs is thankful just to be playing again following an operation he describes as being "just short of a hip replacement".
His Cape Town specialist had to drill a couple of holes in his left hip to put in anchors, as well as remove loose pieces of bone. His hip bone also had to be shaved in places.
"To be honest, I'm just grateful to be playing again. And not just playing, I'm talking about practising and being able to go to the gym like a normal cricketer and not for rehab," Jacobs, who turns 30 next month, said yesterday.
"The runs are almost a bonus. I've been working on it mentally for almost three years. I knew my body just needed to recover. I was at a certain level when I hurt my hip but in these two years I've just wanted to focus all my energy on convincing myself that I'm still there.
"The two years have made me a lot stronger as a person and I now appreciate the things you take for granted when you are playing."
After going under the knife in October last year, Jacobs spent five months in rehab before playing two T20 matches for the Warriors in March.
He then rejoined the Mumbai Indians for the final year of his Indian Premier League (IPL) contract. He played one warm-up match and a competitive one for the Indians before the teams were given a week off.
Jacobs headed to the Indian tourist destination of Goa. He spent time on the sun-drenched beaches of Goa reflecting on where his career was headed.
"Lying there on the beach, I thought maybe this was a blessing in disguise. Maybe it had to happen. And I made a decision then and there to try and come back better than I was before and make it count."
He turned down an offer to play in the Sri Lankan Premier League T20 tournament in August, opting to further rest his hip in preparation for the Warriors' season.
"I will definitely consider playing IPL in the future, but for now I just want to play cricket for the Warriors. I think this two-year break will actually lengthen my career. It's not often that players get to have a break in the middle of their careers."
After consultation with Warriors coach Piet Botha and some other mentors, Jacobs decided he would open the batting in four-day cricket this season. His primary objective was attempting to help solve a problem the Warriors have had for some time now at the top of the order.
After all, for the first half of his career he took first strike and averaged above 40. When he dropped down the order, his average slipped below 40.
But the Jacobs who had caned bowling attacks during the Champions League T20 here two years ago, was not the same Jacobs who started for the Warriors this season.
Jacobs has curbed his natural instinct to play shots. He has knuckled down and has ground out two impressive hundreds off 240 and 200 balls respectively.
"Of all the hundreds I've made, I've only scored one slowish one but that was only because of the situation of the game. I think I was 19 years old and we needed to block it out. But it was still quicker than these two hundreds I've scored now.
"Normally, if I managed to face 200 balls I'd probably be closer to 180 or so. But the team situation has required that I bat responsibly.
"I just mentioned to Piet [Botha] that maybe I should take some responsibility as a senior player and open the innings rather than expose our youngsters to the new ball. I wanted that responsibility and I wanted to make an impact opening."
It took a conscious mind- shift from the aggressive style he has become known for.
"In the past, I tried to make things happen and try and hit good balls for four to put bowlers under pressure. But it's high risk. I'm just trying to settle into being steady."
With the one-day Momentum Cup fast approaching early next month, Jacobs will be like a loaded spring waiting to start swinging his bat freely again.
Asked if there would be much blocking in that format of the game, Jacobs offered a wry smile and said: "Probably not."