Exclusive: Paddy Upton reveals how India have become such a dominant team

As a leadership and mental conditioning coach, Upton has worked closely with coach Rahul Dravid, captain Rohit Sharma and star batter Virat Kohli

by

Leslie Wilson Jr

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India's captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid during a practice session. — PTI
India's captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid during a practice session. — PTI

Published: Tue 14 Nov 2023, 9:07 PM

One of crickets’ most highly-regarded coaches has attributed India’s successful run at the World Cup to a variety of factors but most importantly to what he describes as ‘great leadership’.

Explaining why India had remained the only unbeaten team in the tournament, Paddy Upton, a close associate of the squad, has revealed the secrets behind the aggression, dominance and resilience that has made the high-performance squad look almost invincible.

As a Leadership and Mental Conditioning Coach Upton has worked closely with coach Rahul Dravid, captain Rohit Sharma and star batter Virat Kohli, along with the others in the squad, a perspective from which he has come to understand their winning mindset.

“I spent six months working with them in the lead-up to last year’s T20 World Cup,” Upton told Khaleej Times. “The number one standout for me about this current Indian team is the leadership.

Paddy Upton. — Photo by Leslie Wilson Jr
Paddy Upton. — Photo by Leslie Wilson Jr

“Let me explain. You have in Rahul Dravid one of the most solid characters you could come across, not just in cricket but the world in general. He is an incredibly solid human being and alongside that, he is one of the most technical, detailed and intelligent analysers in the game.

“What makes Rahul different is that he walks amongst the players he does not place himself above them, he really connects with them with humility,” added Upton, who attained a master's degree in sports science at the University of Cape Town in his native South Africa.

“He is an incredibly understated modern-day leader, unlike the old-school authoritarian, command-and-control leader.

“Alongside him, you have Rohit Sharma, who having watched him from close quarters and knowing him for 10 years now, I would say is a deeply sincere and genuinely heartfelt captain,” adds Upton.

“He spends time with the players and genuinely invests himself in them which makes them feel naturally included.

Upton feels that Dravid and Sharma complement each other's leadership qualities as they bring equal proportions of intelligence and passion to their roles.

“Which is why, when the Indian team walk out onto the field you can almost feel the energy and confidence that they have,” says Upton. “Then you have really talented and experienced players right down.”

Upton also revealed why Virat Kohli, whose athleticism sets him apart from his contemporaries, is so special.

Kohli has already equalled Sachin Tendulkar's all-time record of 49 ODI centuries.

The superstar has a chance of becoming the first player to reach 50 ODI hundreds when India take on New Zealand in the World Cup semifinal on Thursday.

What's been truly remarkable about Kohli is that even at the age of 35, he runs hard between the wickets, often converting singles into doubles.

“As the game gets more modernised, more competitive and the stakes are higher players do need to be looking for that extra one per cent to take their game to another level,” he said.

“Kohli is a great example of that player. When he started he was averagely fit but he looked at himself in the mirror and told himself what he needed to do.

“But I’m not sure if it was so much the fitness that did it but more the professional attitude that he adopted that drove him to the top level at which he is playing for so many years,” added Upton.

“He also did his homework. He studied how to chase totals something that he is the best at in the world. So that pro attitude that preceded an emphasis on fitness was a lethal combination.

“Kohli demonstrated that if you want to be in the top five cricketers in the world you have to be fit but you also need to have the right attitude, only then will you be able to accomplish what you want.”

Upton, who has also previously worked as the strength and conditioning coach for the South Africa cricket and rugby teams, said that most players in the Indian team have worked on improving their attitude towards the game.

“Either it comes from within, as it does in Virat Kohli's case, or it happens externally,” said Upton. “Either way it is a shift that really takes place, it’s a rewiring of the brain, the plugging into a different circuit,' he said.

“This Indian team has gone through that process and that’s what makes them so effective to the point of being lethal.”

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