India allrounder Hardik Pandya has credited batting legend Ricky Ponting for helping him out during what he considers as one of the toughest phase of his cricket career.Also Read - Saudi Plans to Impose Penalties, Travel Ban on Its Citizens For Visiting ‘Red List’ Countries

After tasting success, Pandya recalls, he began acting on advise from several people who asked him to shun his flamboyant personality and maintain calm. Consequently, in 2016, his game suffered and he had a forgettable IPL. Also Read - Centre Writes To States, Seeks Report On Number of Deaths Due to Oxygen Shortage During 2nd Wave

Pandya has played for Mumbai Indians since making his IPL debut in 2015 but the following year, he managed just 44 runs from 11 matches and had three wickets to show for. Also Read - IMF Projects India’s Growth Rate At 8.5% For 2022, Says Economy Downgraded Due to COVID 2nd Wave

“In 2016, I had worst year in IPL. I was kind of distracted. In 2015 I got success, in 2016, because the way I am, not many people were able to take it. Also it was a new thing for me,” Pandya told Cricbuzz.

“May be I went off board and got so many suggestions. You have to be calm, act with people in certain manner. I tried that. Stopped talking to people and didn’t style my hair and it hurt my game. What was happening back then was I was focussing on uncontrollable, which is people’s opinion. In that phase I learnt that it’s better to be myself,” he added.

The then MI coach Ponting lend him a helping hand and talked him through that phase.

“In 2015, someone who looked after me the best was Ricky Ponting. He looked after me as a child. I felt like he was a father figure for me. Learnt so much. Whatever I have learnt it’s in my early days,” Pandya said.

“Ricky taught me situations, mindsets. He used to sit with me before I went into bat. I would sit near boundary rope and call Ricky. He would sit with me and tell me what’s happening. So I grasped and learnt quickly,” he added.

Pandya has been battling fitness issues for some time now. The troublesome back injury, that surfaced during the 2018 Asia Cup in the UAE, saw him going under the knife resulting in a long rehabilitation.

Pandya hasn’t played a Test since 2018 but has been vital cog in India’s limited-overs teams.

The 26-year-old isn’t too keen on playing Test cricket right now as he doesn’t want to risk another injury.

“I see myself as a back-up seamer for sure. After my back surgery, I don’t know, playing Test cricket right now will be a challenge,” he said. “If I was a Test player and didn’t have the game in white-ball cricket, I could go now and risk my back in Tests but I know my importance in white ball cricket.”

“It has happened that I played Tests and then didn’t do well in ODIs and T20s because my plus point is my energy,” he added.

Pandya feared for his career when he was stretchered off during an Asia Cup match nearly two years ago.

“I genuinely thought that my career is over because I’d never seen anyone being stretchered off. I was knocked out for 10 minutes, after that the pain never went down. What happens to me is that my body goes into recovery mode straight away… Asia Cup was anyway going to be my last series before being rested but then the injury happened,” he recalled.

In between, Pandya has had to deal with off-field issues when his comments on women during a chat show drew widespread condemnation. He now claims to have learned from the incident, becoming wiser.

“I just became wiser after the incident. I have made mistakes in my life and the best part in me is I accept them. If I would not have accepted the mistake, one more TV show would’ve been on the cards,” he quipped.

He continued, “That phase no longer bothers me because we as a family accepted it. What hurt me the most was my action caused my family problems, and that’s not acceptable.”