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Nagraj Gollapudi and Shashank Kishore
India have roped in South African mental conditioning expert Paddy Upton to work with the players ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia this year. ESPNcricinfo learned that Upton joined the India squad on Monday and will begin his role ahead of the third ODI against West Indies in Trinidad on Wednesday.
Upton, 53, comes with extensive experience of working with the Indian team and players. Between 2008 and 2011, he was an assistant to India coach Gary Kirsten, a stint that culminated in the World Cup victory under MS Dhoni. Upton then teamed up with Kirsten once again and helped South Africa become the No. 1 Test team in 2013.
It is understood that Upton was approached by India's head coach Rahul Dravid with the specific brief of helping the players stay mentally charged for the T20 World Cup in October and November. Upton's appointment had the support of India captain Rohit Sharma, who arrived in the Caribbean on Monday for the five-match T20I series starting on July 29.
Another key reason for the swiftness of Upton's appointment is that Dravid was keen to have an expert who could immediately work with players - especially the younger ones - on mental conditioning, having played in biosecure environments for over two years during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the relentless schedule of international cricket, Dravid wants his players in the best frame of mind ahead of the T20 World Cup, after India had failed qualify for the semi-finals of the 2021 tournament in the UAE.
Upton has been on the T20 coaching circuit for several years now, most recently as the team catalyst for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2022. He also worked with Dravid at the Rajasthan and Delhi franchises, and was part of Sydney Thunder's support staff when they won the BBL title in 2015-16.
Upton is known for his unique methods as a mental-conditioning expert. He has used activities such as extreme sports, mountain climbing and canoeing, improvisation theatre, and breath-holding techniques to test the endurance of players when put under stress and help them realise that "fear on the cricket field is very small as compared to these activities."
In the past, India have also used the services of other mental-conditioning experts such as Rudi Webster prior to the 2007 World Cup, and Sandy Gordon in the 2003 World Cup. More recently, sports psychologist Mugdha Bavare was part of the India women's support staff for the 2022 World Cup.