Despite India’s dominance in bilateral series and the Asia Cup, clinching an ICC title has proven elusive for the past decade. Paddy Upton, a notable mental conditioning coach with a special connection to Indian cricket, was part of the support staff during the historic 2011 World Cup triumph under Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s leadership.
While Upton’s brief second stint saw India exit the T20 World Cup semifinals last year, he played a crucial role in helping Virat Kohli navigate challenging times. As India prepares for another World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, this time at the Wankhede Stadium, Upton believes the outcome of the 2019 semifinal will not impact the current contest.
Upton remarked, “I think the ghosts of 2019 haunt fans more than players,” emphasizing the changes in coaching staff and player roster. He downplayed concerns, stating that the team has evolved, and experienced players from that time have grown considerably. Upton acknowledged that India enters as the favorite, while New Zealand has nothing to lose, allowing them to play with more freedom.
Having maintained an unbeaten record in the tournament so far, Upton expects Rohit Sharma’s team to adopt a similar approach in the knockout stages. He emphasized sticking to the basics, thorough preparation, and playing to each player’s strengths. While India has excelled in bilateral series and the Asia Cup, Upton believes champion teams handle success and failure similarly, focusing on reviewing and applying lessons for future games.
Upton expressed confidence in the current Indian team, praising their preparation, skill, confidence, and composure. Reflecting on his conversations with Kohli, he highlighted the importance of staying in regular contact and the confidential nature of their discussions. Kohli, in a recent interview, credited Upton for contributing to his strong mental space, indicating the ongoing influence of their conversations.
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