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IPL 2019 | Rajasthan Royals Have More Depth Than Ever Before: Upton

South African mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton has been all around the world since his first tryst with the Indian side more than 10 years ago. After a modest stint with Rajasthan Royals from 2013 to 2015, Upton is back in charge with the Jaipur-based franchise for IPL 12.

Devadyuti Das |March 24, 2019, 3:34 PM IST
IPL 2019 | Rajasthan Royals Have More Depth Than Ever Before: Upton

South African mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton has been all around the world since his first tryst with the Indian side more than 10 years ago. After a modest stint with Rajasthan Royals from 2013 to 2015, Upton is back in charge with the Jaipur-based franchise for IPL 12.

A year after coming back from a two-year ban for betting and spot-fixing, Rajasthan Royals are still trying to find ways to recreate the magic of the inaugural season when they stunned the world to be crowned the IPL champions — their only title till date.

This time around the squad promises a lot under the leadership of Ajinkya Rahane and features the likes of former Australia captain Steve Smith, Englishmen Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Joffra Archer and surprise package in Aussie all-rounder Ashton Turner.

The Royals had a knack of spotting talent over the years like Swapnil Asnodkar, Pravin Tambe and even Shane Watson, who finally found his calling with the Royals in 2008. Now even before the 12th edition of the tournament gets underway, Royals are in the news for picking up Turner at a bargain price of just Rs 50 lakh in the auction.

“One of the things that characterised Royals of old was that the team was full of underdogs and youngsters. One of the reasons why were so competitive was the talent identification and auction strategies of Zubin Bharucha, Rahul Dravid and their team of analysts. That really has a set a strong foundation for Rajasthan to identify talent early. So it is really up to Zubin and his team that they identified Turner early and realized his value, ensuring we could secure him,” Upton told CricketNext.

The Royals open their campaign against the Kings XI Punjab at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium (SMS) in Jaipur on Monday. The SMS is a royal fortress of sorts for the Rajasthan franchise where they won nine successive IPL games dating back to 2013.

“The best IPL memory was when Rajasthan Royals really made the stadium their fortress and won 9 out of 9 games here. The way we played to win those games was really wonderful. The IPL has individual highlights scattered through the tournament, teams have some incredible nail-biting victories but the tournament is characterised by teams that can sustain their performances for the full duration of the seven weeks,” the 50-year-old coach said about his happiest memories with the Royals.

With the addition of Turner to the mix, the Royals have a problem of plenty. Smith, Stokes, Buttler, Archer and even West Indian paceman Oshane Thomas are in fine form which would make it hard for Upton to select the final XI in the opening match.

“Compared to my involvement from 2013 to 2015, this squad has got more depth and greater pool of talent than I have ever been involved with before, which is really, really exciting. A lot of that talent in really good form. The problem is picking 11 players out of more than 25. We have more than 11 that are in really good form and have serious ability to make a dent in T20 games,” Upton, who has also coached Delhi Daredevils in 2016 and 2017 and Sydney Thunder in the BBL, said.

“We have some selection dilemmas because we have quality batsmen and more than 11 quality players. It is a really nice challenge ahead of us,” he said when asked about creating an opening for Turner.

Upton can call on the knowledge of Australian legend Shane Warne, who was the Royals skipper in the inaugural season. Warne has been with the Royals side this season providing his insights to the squad.

“Shane Warne has been part of the Royals right from the beginning. He was part of setting up lot of our success and the team as a whole. His knowledge of cricket and wonderful ability to bring the best out of youngsters and his experiences as a former Royals cricketers. He brings that gravitas to everything we are doing from cricketing perspective,” the Royals coach said about Warne’s inputs.

Apart from the foreign talent, the Royals will count on the Indian pacemen in their arsenal like Saurashtra left-armer Jaydev Unadkat and Jharkhand speedster Varun Aaron. With SMS in Jaipur providing enough assistance to the pace bowlers, the Royals should be pleased to have two in-form India seamers to choose from.

“If we draw on history, the success of Indian pace bowlers have often paralleled the success of the franchises be it Mumbai Indians or Sunrisers Hyderabad. Having Indian pace bowlers performing well goes a long way to setting up the team for success. At the moment, we are seeing Indian pace bowlers really stepping up and putting the Indian team on the world map. That is going to happen in IPL as well with Indian pace bowlers likely to lead most of the franchises’ attacks,” Upton said.

The Royals head coach once again harped on the addition of coaches Sairaj Bahutule and Dishant Yagnik, which opens him up for the additional role of handling the squad’s mental conditioning.

“Pre-season camps have been extremely professional, a lot of opportunity for players to get quality T20 practice in very good facilities. I was fortunate to come in and connect with players on a personal basis because we have got coaches from last year, like Dishant Yagnik the fielding coach and Sairaj Bahutule the spin bowling coach, who have got relationship with the players. It has freed me to connect personally and also to add value to their mental game. The players that handle this aspect of their game in high-pressure situations are the ones who succeed in this tournament,” Upton said on his additional responsibility.

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