'Ponting'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 camp.'
Senior India pacer Ishant Sharma said he has not met a better coach than Ricky Ponting as the Australian great made him feel wanted from the word go in his IPL comeback last year.
Ishant was bought by Delhi Capitals ahead of the 2019 IPL after he went unsold in the previous auction.
A veteran of 97 Tests felt like a "debutant" on day one of the Delhi Capitals camp until head coach Ponting's words lifted his spirits.
"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 camp," Ishant said during an Instagram Live session with his IPL team Delhi Daredevils.
"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," Ishant recalled.
Speaking of the time when he got the better of the Australian legend Down Under 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...That success I had against them in 2008 is easily one of the highlights of my career."
By his own admission, Ishant has been a different bowler after his county stint at Sussex under the watchful eyes of former Australia pacer Jason Gillespie.
"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. It gave me sleepless nights, and I hardly found any joy in my bowling.
"My county stint (in 2018) 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-realization also...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," he added.
Talking about his routine in the ongoing lockdown, Ishant added: "I've started waking up at 5am 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 are keep performing at the highest level, and I think that is what sets the best apart from average," said Ishant, who was feeling a bit frustrated in the initial days of lockdown.