It hasn’t exactly been a sweet homecoming for Paddy Upton at the Rajasthan Royals camp. In his last stint as the coach, he had helped the team post 13 wins on the trot at home.
This time around, there have only been two victories at home, with just one remaining. The Royals haven’t travelled well, either.
But the South African, who was the mental coach during India’s successful campaign at the 2011 World Cup, believes the team has got its core in place and it would evolve into a formidable side in the future.
"All we need is to plug one or two gaps, which we have recognised," he told Sportstar . "We need just those two small additions."
He said the current side was stronger than the ones he coached from 2013 to 2015. "We have now got probably the strongest and the most balanced Royals team ever," he said. “The main difference is now we have got bigger players. We had more margin to buy them. Previously we had young underdogs. We have now a very good bench too.”
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He said it was disappointing that the team could not convert its strength on the paper into the results on the field. "Everyone is disappointed with that, but that is the nature of the game," he said. "If buying good players could guarantee winning, then cricket wouldn’t be cricket."
One thing that seems to have worked for the Royals of late is the replacement of Steve Smith as captain with Ajinkya Rahane. "But what we did was just reverting to our Plan A," he explained. "If we go back to 18 months the plan was to have Smith captain the team. At the time he was one of the best T20 captains in the game, I believe, but then the Newlands sandpaper incident happened."
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Upton said Smith’s injured elbow was another issue. "We weren’t sure how quick he was going to come back, so Rahane became the stand-in captain," he said. "The entire management is happy with the decision, as it has freed up both Rahane and Smith."
He was delighted with the hundred Rahane scored in the first match after being relieved of captaincy. "He is one of the sweetest timers of the cricket ball," Upton said. "He hits strokes all around the world off front foot, back foot. He is a pure batsman rather than a fancy improviser. He is your classic cricketer who plays classic cricket shots."