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India have roped in mental conditioning expert Paddy Upton as part of their support staff group under head coach Rahul Dravid.

Upton brings to the table a rich volume of work. Between 2008 and 2011, he was part of India’s support staff as assistant to Gary Kirsten, a stint that culminated in India’s World Cup win under MS Dhoni. Upton then teamed up with Kirsten with the South Africa team that went on to become the No. 1 Test team in 2013.

ESPNcricinfo has learned that Upton joined the Indian squad on Monday and will start his job ahead of the third ODI against West Indies in Trinidad. It is understood that Upton had been approached by Dravid recently with the specific brief of helping the Indian players stay mentally charged for the T20 World Cup, which will be played in Australia this October-November. Upton’s inclusion also had the support of Indian captain Rohit Sharma, who reached the Caribbean on Monday to lead the visitors in the five-match T20I series starting on July 29.

The other key reason behind Upton’s appointment is that Dravid was keen to have an expert on the coaching bench who could immediately help his players with the mental conditioning aspect. Having played in biosecure environments for over two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dravid understood the Indian players, especially the youngsters, may still need to recalibrate for some of the mental challenges. Combined with the exhaustive and busy schedule of the Indian team, Dravid would want his players to be in the best frame of mind going into the T20 World Cup; India failed to reach the playoffs last year when the tournament was held in the UAE.

Upton will work on the mental well-being of the players and is understood to have been asked to set up an environment and culture that would allow the youngsters to express themselves freely and play with more freedom.

Upton has also been around the active coaching sphere in several capacities, most notably as team catalyst of the Rajasthan Royals this season. He had previously worked with Dravid in the back room at Royals and Delhi Daredevils, apart from leading BBL side Sydney Thunder to the title in 2015-16 and being head coach of the Royals.

Upton is known for his unique perspective to coaching. Activities such as extreme sports, mountain climbing and canoeing, improvisation theatre and breath-hold techniques have been part of his methods to test the endurance of players when put under stress and help them realise “fear on the cricket field is very small as compared to these activities.”

India have previously used the services of mental conditioning expert Rudi Webster prior to the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, and Sandy Gordon in 2003 under Sourav Ganguly in South Africa. More recently, sports psychologist Mugdha Bavare was part of India women’s 2022 World Cup tour party.

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