This research paper has learned that BCCI has selected Paddy Upton as their mental conditioning coach for the Indian team. Upton, 53, will start work immediately, from the next five-game T20I series against the West Indies starting in Tarouba from Friday. The mental conditioning expert has already arrived in the Caribbean to join the team and his contract will run until the T20 World Cup in Australia in October and November.
Upton was part of India’s 2011 World Cup winning squad, chosen by then India coach Gary Kirsten. During his first stint with the Indian team, between 2008 and 2011, Upton worked in the dual role of mental conditioning coach and strategic leadership coach, where he developed a good relationship with a lot of players, including Dravid. India also briefly reached the top of the ICC test tree during that time. Later, the two worked together as IPL coaches.
Rahul Dravid has been instrumental in my coaching journey, ever since I first worked with him in 1995! Since then, I’ve learned a lot from him, about cricket and life – the best of my book, The Barefoot Coach. Thanks RSD 🙏🏼🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/imzH3hKJmc
– Paddy Upton (@PaddyUpton1) April 30, 2019
After releasing The Barefoot Coach, a book by Upton, the latter was overwhelmed with praise for Dravid, as he posted on Twitter: “Rahul Dravid has been instrumental in my coaching journey, since I first worked with him in 1995! Since then, I’ve learned a lot! From him, about cricket and life – the best of my book, The Barefoot Coach. Thank you RSD.”
The admiration is mutual, attested by Dravid’s words in Upton’s book: “Padi is a thought leader. He brings a unique and closely related approach to cricket and life.”
India has not won the ICC Cup since 2013, and the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is sparing no effort to end the drought. Prior to last year’s T20 World Cup, MS Dhoni was included in the squad as the team’s mentor, and the idea was to pick the mind of the former captain whose career has been decorated with three ICC titles. Dhoni was very practical during the team’s training sessions in the UAE, but India failed to qualify for the semi-finals, losing to Pakistan and New Zealand in their first two matches. With Upton’s appointment, both the BCCI and the coach are back moving forward.
Hiring sports psychologists/mental conditioning experts is nothing new in Indian cricket. Renowned sports psychologist Sandy Gordon joined the Indian team led by Sourav Ganguly prior to the 2003 World Cup and made his “Now or Never” mantra very popular in the camp. India went to play the final.
Greg Chappelle as coach of the Indian team brought in sports psychologist Rudy Webster. The practice of appointing a mental coach was canceled after Shastri took charge of the Indian team. His successor decided to return to the old ways.
At the end of the 2011 World Cup, Upton joined the South African team as Performance Manager and remained in this position until 2014. He also served as head coach for Pune Warriors, Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils in the IPL. He had spent his stints as head coach in the Big Bash League and the Pakistan Super League as well, with the Sydney Thunder and Lahore Calanders respectively.
“So we weren’t really focused on losing or winning, but on the kind of cricket we play. We knew at that point that we were already playing really well 100 times in a day match, both with the bat and the ball. The focus was on continuing to play better. Possible cricket and not worrying too much about the outcome, Upton wrote in The Indian Express last year, providing insight into his style of work during India’s World Cup-winning campaign.
“Actually, except for a few, I have never worked or met an athlete in cricket or any other sport who does not experience insecurity, doubt, vulnerability and negative thoughts. It is normal. We all have these feelings and expecting athletes not to feel these (feelings) is nonsense.. The biggest mental obstacle to success in cricket, and perhaps any other sport, is the fear of failure and pressure.He said on the Express Idea Exchange: “When you have a great player who is highly affected by mistakes, it increases fear of failure and pressure and decreases the chance of players performing the youngest”.
Those who have seen it closely will confirm that the man, with a degree in human movement sciences, likes to keep things simple.