India in England 2011 August 4, 2011

Mental fatigue is a concern for players - Upton

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Following India's demoralising defeats in the first two Tests of the England series, Paddy Upton, their former mental conditioning coach, has suggested that the increasingly relentless schedules could be draining the players and leaving them with little mental energy. Upton feels that there is little understanding of the "mental fatigue" a player goes through if he is on the conveyor belt all the time and that not only ends up reducing the quality of cricket but also results in situations such as those experienced by India's players during the World Cup, when they struggled to keep their food down and Yuvraj Singh was physically sick because of the anxiety.

"The current schedules ask players to be machines," Upton told ESPNcricinfo from South Africa. "We can guess the physical impact on players but what is very little understood is the mental fatigue the players experience when crossing the ropes in every single game where there is that much amount of pressure."

By the end of the England series, India would have played seven Tests in a span of nine weeks. This comes on the back of a lengthy and high-pressure World Cup followed, just six days, later by the IPL that lasted a further seven weeks. Upton feels preparing for the World Cup and then working through the plans diligently had taken a large toll on the India players and without a suitable break, many of the players would have remained vulnerable to injury or a drop in performance.

"That World Cup was a monumental process, both preparing for the tournament and enduring it for seven weeks. It was a very, very long tournament. The physical drain on the players, I don't think even the players realise the extent to which they were absolutely stuffed. I spoke to Yuvraj Singh who said he was sick for nearly two weeks after the World Cup and I know there were a lot of players who were mentally down after the World Cup."

The troubles for India started long before the tour of England. Virender Sehwag opted for shoulder surgery only after his IPL team, Delhi Daredevils, were eliminated from play-off contention. Gautam Gambhir picked up an injury in the World Cup final but that was only revealed during the knockout stage of the IPL. Sehwag was ruled out until at least the third Test of the England series while Gambhir missed out on the Caribbean tour.

The troubles didn't end there either. In less than a month in England, India have been knocked cold by a combination of a general loss of form and injuries to key players. Zaheer Khan left the field at Lord's on the first day of the series and Gambhir injured his left elbow while fielding and was declared unfit for the second Test. Then Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh picked up injuries in the second Test that have ruled both of them out for the rest of the series.

If that wasn't enough, there is the issue of form, especially in MS Dhoni's case. India's captain walked out to bat at Lord's and Trent Bridge only to return to the dressing room in a matter of minutes each time. Adding to his woes is his unconvincing glove work behind the stumps.

Dhoni said that the inability of his batsmen to stay at the wicket has exacerbated the workload on the fast bowling trio of Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Sreesanth. Though Zaheer Khan is expected to return for the third Test at Edgbaston, starting August 10, it remains to be seen whether he can go full throttle or will have to bowl within himself.

"It is an ideal situation for sponsors and for the revenue streams to have so much cricket, but it is not ideal for the quality of the product"

According to Upton, the need of the moment is to understand exactly why the India ship has suddenly found itself listing in high seas. "The team knows what to do and how to win, and are good enough to bounce back. By giving players so much cricket, there is a potential of diluting the quality of the product. We are possibly seeing the evidence of it now."

Upton said the Indian board was responsive to many of the suggestions made by him and Gary Kirsten, who was the head coach from 2008 through the World Cup. Most of those requests had to do with keeping the players in peak shape. "The Indian board accepted suggestions like allowing players to go home between Test matches while in India, allowing players to miss games during ODI series, so strategically resting players certain times," Upton said. "That went some way to alleviating the mental and physical fatigue of players."

Still, a player like Dhoni has barely had a break over the last few years, mostly because as captain and one of the country's most in demand celebrities, sponsors would like him to be on the team's roster no matter how important a series might be. "It is an ideal situation for sponsors and for the revenue streams to have so much cricket, but it is not ideal for the quality of the product," Upton said. "It seems there are other things that are dictating the schedules."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • amit_mallick on August 7, 2011, 15:46 GMT

    its quite unfortunate to hear it from people that india is not good on the fast track despite winning the last two matches played in durban and in perth against the sa and aus respectably. come on guyz........read between the lines.........its about the form tht indian batsmen struggling this time just because of minimum practice match. remember the tour in aus in 2004....langer said indian batsmen are like in a meditation while they are with their bat........wait for something like tht......they still have got the best trio .......let see.....

  • big_al_81 on August 7, 2011, 9:05 GMT

    @ devalyagnik2003, I think all of us in England have underestimated how much excitement was generated in India by a lucky 1-0 series win in 2007. It would have been 1-1 (still a creditable performance by India) had India not been saved by the rain at Lords. People would do well to remember the 3-1 victory in Australia just 7 months ago before disputing England's ability to travel well. And why don't India give sensible-length Test series to other major teams at home? 2 or 3 Test matches is not enough - India have scraped plenty of uninspiring 1-0 series wins which is why no-one outside India really rates them that highly.

  • big_al_81 on August 7, 2011, 8:16 GMT

    @insightfulcricketer (hilarious name on this occasion!) Broad and Bresnan have been involved in a winning Ashes campaign in Oz, the World Cup, the Sri Lanka series - at least some of those must count as meaningful. The reason they may not have played every match is that England have strength in depth beyond the XI who play. India have about 8 players between very good and world class and play them all the time and several of them are older. The whole point of this rather weak article and the spin of the psychologist is that they've played too much but several of them didn't go on the insipid Caribbean tour anyway.

  • devalyagnik2003 on August 7, 2011, 3:04 GMT

    Rightly said Aditya Sehgal... India won in England on last trip, India draw series twice in this decade in SA, played way better in AUS than old days, won in WI, so if someone says India is a flat track bullies he must be crazy.. India won T20 wc in SA as well. Secondly, if India's performance deteriorate on fast pitches and you say that they are not a good team then England, Australia and SA are not a good team because they are not good enough on flat pitches! if India need to perform good on bouncy pitches to prove their metal then England need to perform good on Indian pitches to prove their versatility as well! and everyone knows how did they perform last time in India!! even australia is 4-0 down in two last Indian trips...

  • dummy4fb on August 7, 2011, 2:08 GMT

    It is not mental fatigue, it is IPL Fatigue. IPL has cause Test Cricket Fatigue for this Team India which is looking completely unfit from 360 degree. IPL has taken betting to highest level. IPL is not a Cricketing event it is a worst commerical event. Team India and BCCI is completely focussed on IPL. Because of IPL, Team India is losing skill, inspiration, motivation and fitness to play Test Cricket. These curators, coaches and BCCI officials are working for IPL growth rather than Cricket growth. Until IPL is thrashed, Team India is not going to perform well in other tournaments. IPL is completely meaningless and obsolete Tournament. Test, ODI & T20 Cricket is great to watch between Countries unlike IPL Teams which look like clubs. Test Cricket is ultimate to watch on sportive pitches. But IPL is making these pitches Lifeless.

  • insightfulcricketer on August 6, 2011, 21:18 GMT

    I hate excuses but this time I think we have to agree this Indian team cannot become so bad suddenly. It is down to injuries and mental fatigue. Lets face it how many "meaningful" games Bresnan and Broad of all people have played in the last one year. ZERO. No wonder they are fresh and charged up.While this Indian team has played so many crucial and tough games starting last year with the SL tour - Ind-Aus, Away SA , World Cup at home and winning imagine the pressure of that - I feel this has numbed these guys to the constant whirl of important games and shuttling between hotels. These guys are human too with private lives. I congratulate the English team but I fervently request the BCCI to think hard about furthering the cause of the players by ensuring they get a good 3-4 months of downtime atleast every year . Otherwise they will be unwittingly killing the proverbial goose who lays golden eggs.

  • Clive_Dunn on August 6, 2011, 20:50 GMT

    Not really sure how mental tiredness can cause half the Indian top order to have no clue how to play a bouncer. Perhaps they fall asleep just before the ball is delivered ? I think it's much more likely that a diet of ODI and 20/20 cricket has caused them to become technically flabby, as well as literally flabby in some of their cases.

  • big_al_81 on August 6, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    All sides play a lot of cricket and when it gets too much their board have to decide what's most important to them. For the BCCI it's ODIs and T20s including the bloated and tedious IPL. For the ECB it's Test matches. As Mr Buttle so rightly says below, Dravid (who has been excellent), Laxman, Sharma and Kumar (who have all done OK) were in the Caribbean so it's not about tiredness - they're just not good enough any more to challenge the up and coming teams! They need to rebuild and it'll take a long while because everyone in India who can hold a cricket bat will want to be an IPL player, not a Test player. And for all the 'wait til you get to India' brigade, be careful what you wish for because England weren't in English conditions when they beat the Aussies 3-1...

  • dummy4fb on August 6, 2011, 20:08 GMT

    Dhoni is going through a bad spell. But he will bounce back as he always does. He did bounce back in a World Cup final. He can bounce back now.

  • Kangroos.Proteas.Monkeys.Lions on August 6, 2011, 17:16 GMT

    @Apna Naam, Please also consider many tactics of dhoni that went astray due to wonderful performance of the english team. What he is given by the board is the veterans, youngster who are ordinary, players who are injured but hid that from board or board ignored their injuries. On top of that out of form bhajji and the ordinary seameers. This is demoralizing for dhoni himself. It should have been dhoni's idea to adventure in windies with the bench strength that backfired and will be responsible for loss of number one ranking.

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