Xaverians in Proteas land

A team from St. Xavier's Collegiate School is back from a nine-day tour of South Africa, where the cricket was tough but the boys came home rich with tips from Paddy Upton and guidance from academy coaches on how to deal with extra bounce.

By Rith Basu
  • Published 28.10.17
  •  
The St. Xavier's team during a practice session at the Western Province Cricket Club in Cape Town

Park Street: A team from St. Xavier's Collegiate School is back from a nine-day tour of South Africa, where the cricket was tough but the boys came home rich with tips from Paddy Upton and guidance from academy coaches on how to deal with extra bounce.

The team members also had a chance meeting and photo-op with South African middle-order batsman J.P. Duminy, when he dropped in to practise at The Cricket Academy (TCA) in Cape Town that hosted the boys.

The boys from Xavier's played five matches against different school and academy sides. They lost the first two, tied the next two and won the last one, finishing the tour on a positive note.

One of the most enriching experiences for the boys was a two-and-a-half-hour session with Paddy Upton, the mental conditioning coach of M.S. Dhoni's World Cup-winning squad of 2011.

The academy instructors also shared tips that helped the boys in the last few games.

Short ball lessons

The batsmen were struggling to cope with the extra bounce. The coaches made them practise back-foot drives against the short ball, stressed on stability when bat made contact with ball and pointed out most of them were going too far across while attempting the square cut, thus getting cramped up and dismissed.

For batsmen going battling a lean patch, Upton had a "three-ball strategy". "We were asked to forget everything else and concentrate on the next three balls and play them on merit. After that, it gets into the system," said Uddhav Bhagat of Class XII, the highest run-scorer for Xavier's.

Best ball mantra

The bowlers were dejected after their second match, which they lost by 95 runs after a 16-year-old called Jono Bird scored a 40-ball 100. The advice: stop experimenting and to stick to their "best ball", the one they were most comfortable with, to restrict runs.

Captain's challenge

St. Xavier's captain Shashvat Kumar was not doing well initially. "Mr. Upton said it is the responsibility of all senior players to step up their game in such situations. We tried it and it worked," he said.

Extras

The boys got to know from Upton that Sachin Tendulkar was the most dedicated player during practice sessions. Upton also told them it is more important to be a good human being than a good cricketer, citing the examples of Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman.