IPL 2020: Paddy Upton says players “really going to struggle” in front of empty stadium

Cricketers like Virat Kohli who depend on external stimulation and are used to ‘pressure’ are “really going to struggle” in front of empty stadium but self-motivated players will “do a hell lot better” in this year’s IPL, said experienced mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton.

The 13th IPL will be held in a bio-secure environment behind closed doors in wake of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and Upton feels many players might struggle.

“The big-match temperament players do well when the pressure is on, when there are a lot of people around. The fact that you are gonna have games in front of empty stadiums now, you are just not going to have that level of pressure,” Upton told ESPNcricinfo Newsroom.

“So the players who rely on big-match temperament to deliver results … Someone like Virat Kohli, will he still be as good when you take away that external stimulation and noise and pressure?

“You are gonna find players who normally fall over when the pressure gets high. They will be able to just carry on batting because there is not going to be the physical presence of spectators.”

The 51-year-old from South Africa, who was the mental conditioning coach of the Indian team which went on to win the 2011 World Cup, said internally driven players will outperform cricketers who look for external validation.

“Athletes who are internally driven, who find the motivation from within themselves, they are going to be fine, they are going to do well. Your typical confidence players, who look for motivation, inspiration or validation from outside, they are really going to struggle,” he said.

“Your (a team’s) optimists are going to do a hell lot better. Your pessimists are gonna struggle. So it depends how many introverts, internally driven, optimists you have got in your team. The more you have got, the luckier you actually are.”

A day after 13 members from Chennai Super Kings, including two players, tested positive for COVID-19 in Dubai, all-rounder Suresh Raina had exited the T20 event owing to “personal reasons” and returned home, creating quite a stir before the event which begins on September 19.

Upton, who has coached multiple teams in IPL, Big Bash League and Pakistan Super League, said staying in a bubble for three months is not easy and many cricketers might be in the “same boat” as Raina, warning the teams to be prepared as “funny things” can happen during the tournament.

“There are a number of other players who are very much in the same boat as Suresh Raina and I just hope that the teams are aware of that and are catering for that. There are coaches who are gonna be struggling, there are support staff who are gonna be struggling in that three-month bio-bubble,” he said.

“We need to be predicting these strange things and not have a knee-jerk reaction. Funny things are gonna happen. Smart teams will predict them, put things in place and have that cushion of support system to be able to support players,” said Upton, who also served as the Performance Director of South Africa between 2011 to 2014.