Pick a team that has played together for a long time for the T20 World Cup: Paddy Upton

Paddy Upton, ex-mental conditioning and strategic leadership coach suggests team selection ideas for India and explains why India has performed poorly in ICC World Cup knockout matches.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip Mohanty

Last Updated: 2024-01-24

Umaima Saeed

5 minutes read

Selection challenges ahead of T20 World Cup

The memories of the 50-over World Cup in India are still fresh, and now we have another ICC World Cup approaching. The T20 World Cup is scheduled to take place in the USA in June 2024, as the format expands its reach to different parts of the world. Top teams will gather in the USA and West Indies to compete for the T20 World Cup.

India is currently facing a two-pronged challenge in preparation for the 2024 T20 World Cup. Firstly, there is uncertainty surrounding the leadership of the Indian contingent. Secondly, there is a scheduling issue as Indian players will only have a week between the IPL final and their first match in the T20 World Cup.

In an exclusive interview with SportsBoom, Paddy Upton, an internationally renowned mental conditioning coach and the author of the book "The Barefoot Coach" shares his perspective on team selection and delves into the mystery behind India's repeated under par performance in World Cup knock-out games.

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Paddy believes that the teams will not have enough information or experience about the playing conditions in the USA. Another important factor, not only for India but for all teams, is the timing of the IPL final, which concludes just a week before the first T20 World Cup game. As a result, teams will not have sufficient time to come together as a cohesive unit and understand how to function as a team. 

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“Probably the smart move will be to pick teams that have players that played together, because it is so important. We've seen in IPL, the teams that win or the teams that played together the longest and understand each other the best.”

Paddy Upton on team selection strategy for the T20 World Cup 2024

Paddy suggests that picking teams with players who have played together and understand each other well may be the smart move, as seen in the IPL where successful teams have played together the longest. We've got a long flight and the jet lag going from India across the United States. The team will probably have two maximum quality days of preparation before the first game. So teams can't be relying on preparation, rather than rely on what's already in place, said Paddy.

Much easier to go into a big game as an underdog

India claimed victory in the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup in 2007. Despite being a powerhouse of T20 cricket and the home of the Indian Premier League (IPL), India has not won the T20 World Cup in the last seven editions. Being one of the highest-ranked teams and having some of the greatest players of their generation, India has not won a single ICC trophy in the past 10 years.

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Paddy was the mental conditioning and strategic leadership coach for India during the 2011 World Cup that India went on to win. He does not believe there is a cause for concern. According to Paddy, India faced difficulties in knockout games due to the pressure and expectations of being the favourites. He advises that India should play consistent cricket, stick to the basics, and leverage their strengths. Paddy, the 55-year-old South African, is currently preparing the Indian Hockey team for success in the Paris Olympics.

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“When it comes to knockout games, there's a couple of things that are just universally true across the board. The first one is the fact that it's much easier to go into a big game as an underdog where there's no pressure, there's no expectations".

Paddy Upton on the pressure of being a favorite in a tournament

Leading up to the 50 over World Cup, India was a clear favourite. Their recent World Cup records are enviable. Since their last World Cup win in 2011, India have played 28 matches and lost only four. Interestingly, three out of the four matches were two World Cup semi-finals and a final.

Paddy thinks, India's success in cricket, winning 24 out of 28 games, highlights their ability to perform in different conditions and against various opponents. While every team faces pressure in high-stakes situations, going in as underdogs can scale-down expectations and allow for more freedom in expressing themselves in the match.

At the same time, he believes that India should stick to the basics. Being well-prepared and playing consistent cricket are crucial in knockout games. Winning as favourites may bring relief rather than excitement. 

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“I can tell you from the inside, from a players and a coach's perspective, winning when you're the favorite is not fantastic. It's just comes with a sense of relief.”

Paddy Upton on winning a knock-out game as a favourite

He said, "In all of my experiences, both in various roles as a mental coach, head coach, and performance director, I have been most comfortable working with a team when we are going in as the underdogs and have lower expectations. It frees us up to truly express ourselves. And if we lose, it doesn't matter because that's sort of expected." On the other hand, he observed that the opposite is true for teams that enter with high expectations. Even if they win, fans may be super happy, but from the inside perspective of players and coaches, winning as favourites is not fantastic. It merely comes with a sense of relief. 

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Is winning a habit?

Paddy disagrees with this perspective. Instead, he highlights the significance of maintaining consistent and accurate processes. According to Paddy, India's limited exposure to challenging matches during the league stage, where they remained undefeated and dominant, was a weakness. In the final, despite a challenging start, he contends that if the final were played multiple times, India would likely win three or four out of five.

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“If they played that final five times, I think India would've won three, if not four out of those five times.”

Paddy Upton sympathises with India on the World Cup final loss

“They hadn't really been tested with the ball, they hadn't been tested with conditions. And they went into a game against Australia that started really badly, which often is, it's quite a humbling thing. And they came across a wicket that for the first time really tested them against an opponent that was used to playing in finals with all the pressure and expectation on them being the informed team that had won so well in India. So again, I think if they played that final five times, I think India would've won three, if not four out of five times, said Paddy.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip MohantySports Editor

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.