Paddy Upton to ease the mind of players
Paddy Upton has joined the India squad in the West Indies as mental conditioning coach in the build-up to the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. Upton, 53, who is based in Johannesburg, confirmed to The Telegraph about his role as Team India’s backroom staff. It was learnt that Upton’s contract is till the showpiece event in October-November this year and could be extended till next year’s ODI World Cup in India.
Upton joined Rahul Dravid’s team on Monday in Trinidad and has begun his work ahead of the third ODI against the West Indies. Head coach Dravid convinced the BCCI to rope in Upton, who was part of India’s support staff under Gary Kirsten during their 2011 World Cup triumph at home. Dravid and Upton had worked together previously at Rajasthan Royals and Delhi DareDevils (now Delhi Capitals) where they served as coach and mentor, respectively.
Upton was also associated with Rajasthan Royals as ‘team catalyst’ last season when they reached their first IPL final since the 2008 season. Upton’s brief is to work on the players’ mental aspect, some of whom are still struggling to come out of the effects of staying in a bio-bubble for several months.
Former head coach Ravi Shastri has spoken of how continuous cricket inside a bio-bubble since the pandemic took a toll not only on the players’ mental health but also on their performance on the field. Former captain Virat Kohli too has stressed that bubble life was not sustainable in the long run and it was “tough” on the players.
Dravid understood the mental challenges of the players since taking charge in November 2021 and felt the need for an expert who could help the cricketers with mental conditioning. He doesn’t wish to take any chances when it comes to their performance in the World Cup and hence Upton’s expertise was sought.
The head coach is learnt to be very keen to create an atmosphere through which the players can express themselves freely. John Wright worked with sports psychologist Sandy Gordon when the Sourav Ganguly-led team finished runners-up in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. Sports psychologist Rudi Webster worked with coach Greg Chappell as mental conditioning expert prior to the 2007 Cup.