Fitness is an attitude: Upton

Sachin Tendulkar downwards, almost every member of the Indian team has spoken at length on how the team is pulling in the same direction and enjoying each others’ success in the Kirsten era.

“Everything we do revolves around the players' mental well-being,” Paddy Upton, the team’s physical and mental conditioning coach, said in a rare interaction after Sunday’s optional training session.

“That's why we’ve worked so hard to build a good dressing room atmosphere, because international cricket has its own pressures and there doesn't need to be any more than already is. That starts with coming out of a happy dressing room.”
Despite the plethora of youngsters in the team, especially in limited-overs cricket, the squad’s fitness is some way short of international standards. “Fitness is an attitude,” Upton offered. “If you're training because somebody tells you to train, it's difficult. But if you're training because it's the right thing to do and you want to be disciplined, then it’s easier. Fitness is everything, from having energy to remaining injury-free, to being able to perform in an atmosphere of back-to-back one-day internationals. There's a number of reasons we try and make them understand the value of fitness. When they understand, they want to train, as opposed to us having to make them train. Suresh Raina is one of the guys who goes about his business the right way. A guy like that is going to prevail.”

Throwing light on the line of thought Kirsten has embraced when it comes to coaching, Upton added, “Traditionally, in cricket, coaches help players do best what to do. It means as a coach, I'm doing the thinking for you as a player. Yet, when you cross the ropes, you have to learn to think for yourself. Ultimately, in the pressure moment, it's the player who has to make a decision. We encourage the players to make their own decisions, bring their reflections and thinking to the table, so we can assist the player with his thinking as we train.

It's self-organised learning. That's the ideal situation, when a player practices doing his own thinking. We're not bosses, we provide the support. The main challenge was coming to understand the Indian way, bringing the South African way to an Indian set-up.”

One of the senior-most members of the team, Yuvraj Singh is going through a difficult period, injuries galore competing with poor form in stymieing his progress. “Some of the biggest mental challenges in a sport are getting injured, getting dropped, and when you have a low run of form,” Upton agreed.

“That’s when the individual’s character is really tested. There's a natural process you go through of disappointment and frustration, sometimes even wanting to give up. What we try and teach is to move through that as quickly as possible. The player must understand what he needs to do to get back in the mental, physical and technical condition needed to be a serious competitor and a serious contributor to the team.”

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