New Delhi: Delhi Capitals’ (DC) pace spearhead Ishant Sharma on Sunday (May 17) referred to head coach Ricky Ponting as “the best coach” he’s met during his career.

The 31-year-old right arm pacer made the comment during a candid Instagram live session with the franchise’s official handle.

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Having played with and against the Australian great during his ongoing 12-year long career, Ishant got the opportunity to play under Ponting for the very first time during the 2019 IPL season and believes it was a confidence booster.

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“He’s the best coach I’ve ever met. I was very nervous when I was making a return to the IPL last season. I was almost feeling like a debutante walking into the camp the first day, but he gave me a lot of confidence since the first day I arrived at the Delhi Capitals’ camp,” said Ishant.

“He just told me, ‘You’re a senior player and you should help the youngsters. Just don’t worry about anything - you’re my first choice.’ And I think that bit of conversation really helped me,” the experienced pacer added.

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Speaking of the time when he got the better of the Australian legend, in 2008, Ishant said, “People still talk and ask me about the Perth Test, and the spell I bowled to him. Later that year when Australia visited India too, I was in great form. Gary (Kirsten) was our coach then, and he told me that the Australians play only to win, which is why a performance against them, even on home soil, counts a lot, and would help me get noticed. That success I had against them in 2008 is easily one of the highlights of my career.”

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Ishant was asked about the potential changes that could take place in cricket going forward.

“We know there are talks of some changes and adjustments in cricket, but I feel cricketers will have to get used to the new normal, whatever that is. The ball may not shine as per your liking if you are not allowed to use saliva, or you may have to go and fetch the ball yourself during nets – but there is no option but to get used to these things,” said Ishant.

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“But honestly I don’t like to think about these things too much. I feel it is important to stay in the present and not look too far ahead,” the pacer added.

Ishant was also seen talking about his first season with DC which saw him pick 13 wickets in as many matches.

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“I didn’t watch the IPL auction last time but I was overjoyed when I heard I had been picked up by the Delhi Capitals. Apni state, apni state hoti hai (my state is always my state). I knew with Ricky as coach, and playing for my home city, it was going to be a really nice experience. We all wanted to win the trophy, but we will go again next time we get the chance,” said the Indian.

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After having struggled in the middle phase of his career, the cricketing world has seen a different Ishant in the past three years, and the lanky bowler says it’s down to him enjoying his bowling more.

“People keep saying Ishant 2.0, which it makes it sound like I am a robot! But the phase before 2017 was one when the pressure to perform was a lot. I gave me sleepless nights, and I hardly found any joy in my bowling. My county stint with Sussex was what changed everything. It was a gruelling stint for me because I was bowling 22-23 overs in a day, batting as well, and then coming back home to do the chores. It was a tough drill but somehow I enjoyed it a lot,” he said.

“It was kind of a self-realisation also. I think I enjoyed a lot more there and I ended up learning a lot about myself - credit also to Jason Gillespie who was my coach there. When I came back to India to play after that, I felt a lot free and focussed only on enjoying the present, which took off a lot of pressure from me. That change in mindset is the reason for me being an improved cricketer today.”

Talking about the importance of discipline, Ishant did admit that he was “initially a bit frustrated during the lockdown”, but has managed to change his schedule to ensure he’s able to keep his discipline.

“I’ve started waking up at 5 am and I ensure that I’m putting in a running session in the morning and then working out during the day to stay very fit. I think it’s really important to be very disciplined if you keep performing at the highest level, and I think that is what sets the best apart from average,” signed off Ishant.