Eyeing come back to the national squad after suffering from a chronic lower back injury, India all-rounder Hardik Pandya has downplayed comparisons with Mahendra Singh Dhoni who owned the No.7 slot in the limited-overs format. However, since Dhoni’s absence from the international stage, all eyes have been waiting for Pandya to return to the national fold and take over the role of a ‘finisher’.

“I’ll never be able to fill MS’ shoes, so I don’t even think that way. I’m quite excited for the challenge to be honest. Whatever I do, it will be always for the team you know. It will be one step at the ladder and slowly-slowly that Cup will be there,” the 26-year-old said.

Pandya also broke his silence over the infamous ‘Koffee with Karan’ controversy. Explaining his side of the story over making outrageous comments on women in a TV show, the enigmatic all-rounder said ‘the ball was not in my court.’

The younger Pandya, along with teammate KL Rahul, drew a lot of flak after their loose talk on women on the show. The video of the duo went viral which prompted BCCI to suspend them and institute an inquiry into their conduct.

In his latest statement on the episode, Pandya said things were not particularly in his control during the interview. “We as cricketers did not know what was going to happen. The ball was not in my court, it was in someone else’s court where they had to take the shot and that’s a very vulnerable place, you don’t want to be (in it),” Pandya spoke on India Today’s show ‘Inspiration’.

Pandya and Rahul were called back from an ongoing series against Australia at that time and their captain Virat Kohli too was openly critical of their comments on the show.

Both eventually came back after explaining themselves and apologising to the inquiry committee of the BCCI. While Rahul is currently playing in the T20 series against Sri Lanka, Pandya is recovering from a back injury.

Pandya has not played since September last year but is expected to be back next month after being named in India A squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.