South Africa Twenty20 team's skipper Heinrich Klaasen, second right, with teammates warm up during a practice session for upcoming Twenty20 match against Pakistan, at the Gaddafi Stadium, in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. South Africa will play three Twenty20 matches against Pakistan, starting from Feb. 11. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
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ISLAMABAD (AP) — South Africa captain Heinrich Klaasen says he underestimated the effect of being infected by the coronavirus.

“COVID hit me quite hard,” Klaasen said in an online new conference in Lahore on Tuesday, on the eve of a three-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan.

He'd played two T20s against England in late November, then was withdrawn from the third and last match on Dec. 1 in Cape Town and isolated.

Three weeks ago, Klaasen warned fans on social media that COVID-19 was the real deal and he didn’t think it would be “this hard to come back.”

“It’s been a different season for me, I’ve played four games so far which has been very frustrating," he said. "It’s been a tough two months since I tested positive on Dec. 3.

“I’ve been working hard. It’s difficult to tell you how is my form, we will probably see after these three games, but I’m hitting the ball very nicely.”

Klaasen was handed the captaincy for the T20s in place of regular skipper Quinton de Kock, who returned home after losing the test series to Pakistan 2-0 on Monday.

Other T20 regulars in the test team who also flew home included Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.

They had to return home for a test series against Australia, but only last week was that series postponed and by that time a second-string South Africa T20 squad was en route to Pakistan.

Among the Proteas, only David Miller has experience of playing in Pakistan after appearing in the Pakistan Super League.

“The knowledge that he’s got on the ground and the way to play, it’s been good for us,” Klaasen said.

He believed the Proteas can compete against a formidable Pakistan side, which will be led by Babar Azam in the series which begins in Lahore from Thursday, followed by two more games over the weekend.

“We are by no means a second-string T20 side,” Klaasen said.


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