India’s mental coach is Paddy Upton. He joined the squad during the ODI series in West Indies and will work with the players before the T20 World Cup in October-November. Upton was a supporter when India won the 2011 World Cup. Since then, Upton has coached various T20 franchise sides, including Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Capitals, Sydney Thunder, and Lahore Qalandars.
Rahul Dravid has worked with Upton. Physiotherapist John Gloster says Dravid “sees the larger picture” and wants players to focus on “the minor things around cricket.” He wants Upton to keep the players in the correct state of mind before the T20 World Cup. Should mental health only be addressed before large events? Should it be year-round?
Mental health and sports psychology aren’t new. Professor Joo Carvalhaes introduced psychometric exams to South American club football over 30 years before European football did. Germany flew in South African adventurer Mike Horn for a motivational workshop before the 2014 World Cup.
Horn took the team boating and told them stories of human persistence. A month later, Germany beat Argentina 1-0. Ivan Lendl sought therapy after losing three US Open finals in 1985. Lendl won three US Open finals. Andy Murray partnered with Castorri in 2012. Murray won the Olympic and Grand Slam titles in two years.
These examples show that tournament-specific mental conditioning can be effective. Nope. When Brazil lost 7-1 to Germany in the 2014 World Cup, prominent psychologist Regina Brandao was with them. Dr. Rudi Webster couldn’t help India escape a 2007 World Cup group-stage exit when coached by Greg Chappell.
Dr Swaroop Savanur, a mental conditioning and peak performance coach who has worked with the Punjab Kings, the Ranji Trophy-winning Vidarbha team, and the NCA in Bengaluru, believes a holistic approach is most important.
“Whether you’re a mental coach, trainer, or team coach, we all have a goal. We want the player to be at his best tactically, physically, and mentally, says Dr. Savanur. “Identify its weaknesses.” The team, not one person, will drive success. Teamwork is crucial.
Team motivation takes many forms. Horn, who trained with Upton and worked with the India team before the 2011 World Cup, is recognised for inspiring with stories of tenacity and character that help players find themselves.
Horn inspired Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to battle for each other during the 2014 IPL, which they won. IPL is about mercenary who care about friends, he said HT. “You want them to trade bullets. All teams don’t have that. You don’t want a family but a bond for IPL.”
Here, team exercises shine. Mental conditioning must be more focused for competitive tasks (like IPL). Savanur explains that it’s about balancing team demands with player requirements and mindset. “Dual perspective is needed. Helping athletes comprehend mental needs. Ensure that any gamer can stroll in without discrimination. Senior-level work is collaborative. It’s more instructional for juniors.”
Historically, hiring mental health coaches was a solo endeavour. It’s just gotten institutionalised in the last 20 years. ATP players can consult therapists round-the-clock. Dr. Savanur argues grassroots cricket is changing. “Initially, I spoke about awareness. Mental health is mainstream. Today, we focus more on mental training. Resistant. The question isn’t “do I need it?” How can I use it in my game? The paradigm has shifted.”
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