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‘Need full-time psychologist’

- Rudi Webster on team India
Dr Rudi Webster

Calcutta: Dr Rudi Webster, the renowned sports psychologist who has worked with Team India during the Greg Chappell days, feels Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men need someone who can work with them full-time.

India have suffered identical 0-4 losses in their last two overseas Test series in England and Australia.

Dr Webster feels a full-time psychologist may be able to help the players overcome the mental fatigue. “India were doing well in the overseas tours… But their performance has dipped alarmingly in the last couple of series. I think the players get exhausted mentally during these sort of series.

“I believe the team would be better off if they appoint a full-time sports psychologist, who can take care of the mental pressure which often bog down the players.”

For the record, India had Paddy Upton as the mental conditioning coach till last year’s World Cup. Since then, the Board has not appointed anyone in the role of a mental conditioning coach or a psychologist.

Dr Webster had worked twice as consultant with the Indian team in 2006 on the request of Chappell — in the West Indies, and then in India during the Champions Trophy.

The initiative had been taken by the then coach Chappell, who’d interacted with Dr Webster (a one-time Warwickshire quick) during his playing days.

During the tour of West Indies, he helped Virender Sehwag regain his form. He has also influenced the minds of Viv Richards and Brian Lara, among others.

Dr Webster felt that it was not only India, but other teams too were struggling on foreign soil.

“The problem is basically mental. If you are not confident enough in foreign conditions, then it obviously affects your performance. So a sports psychologist comes in handy in these sort of scenarios, where he can boost your confidence,” said Webster.

The 72-year-old Dr Webster is currently in the city, working with the Kolkata Knight Riders as their mental skills coach. He said that since the Indian Premier League (IPL) is played over a short span of time, he needs to identify the mental condition of a player and resolve the problem quickly.

“Sports psychology is just like medicine. You have to diagnose before prescribing the medicine. As IPL is played over a short span, you have to address the issues quickly,” Dr Webster said.

He also stressed on the importance of playing as a team in the IPL, which begins on April 4. “The IPL is a carnival of cricket where you have players coming in from different parts of the world with their own cultures and values. So, my job will be to bring the players together and unite them for a common goal. I am confident they would do better as a team,” Dr Webster said.

Author of best-seller Winning Ways — a study of the minds of champions — Dr Webster helped establish the now defunct Shell-funded West Indies Cricket Board Academy in Grenada.

Incidentally, besides cricketers, Dr Webster has worked with the likes of Greg Norman.

Only two KKR players, Manvinder Bisla and Chirag Jaani, practised at the Eden Gardens on Friday while pacer Jaydev Unadkat had a session with physio Andrew Leipus at the hotel.

Dr Webster said he was eager to meet the other members of the team. “I’ve heard there is a lot of talent in the side. So I want to assess them and get an idea about them before starting my work,” Dr Webster said.

The Barbados-born Dr Webster sounded excited on the mention of West Indian spinner Sunil Narine, who was roped in by the KKR this season. “The Indian conditions will help Narine. He is a great prospect and is already doing well for the West Indies. If he can bowl in the right areas, he would be a threat. He can confuse the batsmen with his bowling.”

Meanwhile, KKR team director Joy Bhattacharjya said that the team management has not sought a replacement for Australia’s wicket-keeper-batsman Brad Haddin.