India and Delhi Capitals (DC) left-arm spinner, Akshar Patel, recalled the "difficult" phase of his career when an injury forced him out of the national limited-overs set-up back in 2016, just when he had entered the top 10 in ICC ODI rankings.
Around the time when wrist-spin had begun ruling the roost and finger-spinners found control an elusive mistress, Akshar stood out with his accuracy and consistency, taking 45 ODI wickets while going at an economy rate of only 4.43. But then an injury and later, the emergence of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, saw him fall down in the pecking order.
"It was a difficult phase. I got injured when I was in the top 10. There are going to be negative vibes when you are out of the team," Akshar told the Times of India.
"I categorically told my friends and family that they should not talk about my career. Even this year, when I am doing well, they keep telling me about my chances and I ask them to refrain from such comments. I keep telling myself that I am 26 and it's not that I can't make a comeback."
In this year's edition of the IPL, Akshar has been among the least expensive bowlers. The 26-year-old has gone for only 6.27 runs per over across 12 innings while picking up 8 wickets. His efforts have been especially praiseworthy in the powerplays where DC have banked on him despite field restrictions.
In a way, through his performances, Akshar has also been an advocator of his art amid question marks on the future of finger-spin. For him, however, it's only about keeping his mindset and skillset up for the challenge.
"Obviously, wrist spinners have more advantage. They can spin the ball more and the wicket-taking options are more," admitted Akshar, but added, "I just think like a spinner-can't get into this wrist and finger spinner debate. If you consistently hit the right line and length, it's difficult to get hit. As a finger spinner, I know what my strength is."
But Akshar hasn't always been this good in the IPL. He says maintaining an uncluttered mind and sticking to his strengths have helped him put up improved performances.
"I was trying more variations in the previous years. I used to think too much about the line to bowl to different batsmen. All I am doing now is varying the pace depending on the pitch and the batsman. I have started bowling a lot slower, use the crease better," he added.
The spinner thinks trust shown by the team management, including head coach Ricky Ponting, has been integral to his success as well.
"Ponting told me that I am his main bowler in the team," said Akshar. "He said he trusted me more than I trust myself. That stayed with me. I was nervous since we didn't play for five months. Whenever I doubt myself, I think about what a three-time World Cup winner like him thinks about me."