Paddy Upton finds Indian team well equipped, fitter than the 2011 squad

Paddy Upton, who was India’s mental conditioning and strategic leadership coach during the 2011 World Cup, says the current squad has an equal or a better success rate abroad and is among the favourites for the title.

Paddy Upton is in India promoting his book, 'The Barefoot Coach'.   -  R.V. Moorthy

 

Paddy Upton thinks the present Indian team is “fitter” than the 2011 World Cup squad and is “well quipped” going into the upcoming marquee cricket tournament. The South African, part of the Cup-winning team in 2011 as the “mental conditioning and strategic leadership coach,” picked out Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the single most important character for India’s campaign ahead.

During a chat at The Hindu office in New Delhi on Thursday, Upton looked ahead to the World Cup and also touched upon what led to the unusual title of his book, The Barefoot Coach.

What are you looking forward to at the upcoming World Cup?

Games between some of the favourites (England, Australia, India and South Africa). You’re going to see some really, really good cricket, some amazing stuff. Each year, T20 cricket is causing the other formats to get more and more exciting. We’re going to see more and more T20 type cricket shots being played on those really good wickets and some high scoring games. This might just give little bit more of a lifeline to 50-over cricket as a format, because it’s fighting for it, to some degree, at the moment.

Does the present Indian World Cup team have the characteristics of the 2011 squad?

It does have the characteristic of the 2011 team and probably, the single-most important character is the person by the name of M. S. Dhoni. So that’s the real big tick. This team is fitter, without a doubt, than the 2011 team. This team, I haven’t looked at the exact stats but I think their success abroad would probably be equal or even better than that team. So this team is really well equipped going into the World Cup.

“Each year, T20 cricket is causing the other formats to get more and more exciting. We’re going to see more and more T20 type cricket shots being played on those really good wickets and some high scoring games. This might just give little bit more of a lifeline to 50-over cricket as a format, because it’s fighting for it, to some degree, at the moment.”

On the round-robin format of the first stage of the Cup..

One of the key things that we had in the 2011 World Cup was, during the round-robin phase it was more consequential than it is now. It was really important to keep the pressure on the individuals in the team low – so not to over-hype for any game.

We worked hard on keeping the pressure low because it was bound to pick up going into the qualifiers. It will be easier now to keep a fairly low pressure, not to play the games over and over in your head in the three days leading up to a game. What’s really going to be important for the players is to play the game and get away from it: Chill, keep the pressure low. You lose a game, that’s not so important, particularly for the top teams. And wait for the end, find form and still be ready, fresh. It will be tough, though, for those who have gone through the IPL (this season).

Why the title, The Barefoot Coach?

Well, I guess, I spent a lot of my time barefoot, in chappals. I have always been known as someone who is always barefoot. The connotation of barefoot is, grounded, connected, real authentic, and when I got the job as the Sydney Sunday Head coach, Dale Steyn sent me a message: “Not bad for a barefoot surfer.” Just to play on that…I wanted this book to be a grounded, candid, real down-to-earth account of my journey and my philosophies.