KARACHI                  -              Having just guided his new franchise, Multan Sultans, to the top of the PSL table and ensured they became the first team to qualify for the last four, Rilee Rossouw was faced by a decision he had said he never wanted to make again.

With the coronavirus pandemic spreading around the world and several countries, including Rossouw’s native South Africa, introducing stringent border controls, he posted a tweet that will have reminded PSL fans of the gut-wrenching announcement he had made three years ago, when he played for Quetta Gladiators. “Unfortunately, I will no longer be involved in PSL 2020,” it read. “It has been a privilege to represent Multan Sultans and to play/work with the special people there! Thank you Pakistan for your hospitality and for making PSL5 a [sic] unforgettable experience for me!”

Rossouw was leaving Pakistan to be home with his family, making him unavailable for the final group game and the knockout stage of the PSL. As it happened, the knockout stages would never take place, with the PSL forced into postponing the semi-finals and final as a precautionary measure after an overseas player displayed symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. “I hope and I wish everything goes to plan, and cricket comes back here, which there’s no doubt it’s going to”

Though Rossouw had decided against touring Pakistan in 2017, too, the circumstances could hardly be more different. It was a decision Rossouw admitted he regrets to ESPNcricinfo. “It’s something I’ve looked back at since, and felt a pang of regret about,” Rossouw said during a chat the day before he left Pakistan. “Having been back since every year and enjoyed the hospitality of Pakistan, I’ve always felt completely safe, and if I knew then what I know now, there’s every chance I would have come to a different conclusion.”

“For me, first of all, it’s personal pride. I know many people think as a T20 player you’re just a gun for hire, but whatever team I play for, I’m eager to do my best. Whether it be here or the BPL, I enjoy my time as much as I can. I know some people can think it’s a bit of a hassle to be on tour all the time. But it is our job, you’ve gotta do it. I love what I do, so for me, it’s just about enjoying myself out there, especially my batting.”

While Rossouw took pleasure in his personal form, he had a soft spot for his old teammates, too. “I love Quetta and my time at Quetta. They are still a franchise that is very close to me. Anything can happen in cricket, but unfortunately, things haven’t gone their way because of off-the-field stuff. Umar [Akmal, who was suspended from the tournament on its eve under the PCB’s anti-corruption code] plays a massive role at Quetta Gladiators, and his absence in the middle order has maybe hampered them a little bit. One or two guys have maybe been a little bit inconsistent in the tournament, which you can have in some seasons, too. I’m sure they’ll bounce back very strongly.

“Multan has just been special for me. I enjoyed my time in the city, just to see how much cricket meant to the people. You see that in Karachi and Lahore and Pindi [Rawalpindi] as well, but in Multan, it really hit home what cricket is actually doing for this country. I hope and I wish everything goes to plan, and cricket comes back here, which there’s no doubt it’s going to. Just driving back from the games, you see the people on the roads waving and cheering. It was really, really special.”

The discussions in Pakistan invariably circle back to safety, and the experience of cricketers spending such large amounts of time abiding by security protocols they are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world. There has been talk of some players feeling stifled by the restrictions on movements, and others feeling so comfortable with the state of affairs in the country they felt most security arrangements were gratuitous. That may in itself be a vote of confidence for the future of cricket in Pakistan, but Rossouw was happy to take pleasure in whatever little distraction he could get. “They kind of force us to stay in hotels, but we went to play some night golf a couple of nights ago. That was a fantastic experience. It was my first time ever playing night golf, but that was wonderful, I enjoyed it thoroughly.”