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Viru looks up to Paddy...

Sehwag discusses mental toughness issues with India's new physical and mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, reports Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Mar 25, 2008 01:31 IST
Amol Karhadkar

In the hour before the wet Chepauk outfield dried out in Chennai no Monday, Virender Sehwag had repeatedly dispatched the hapless spinners repeatedly into the stands from the nets.

And then, before he had another batting session, he was seen involved in an intense discussion with Paddy Upton, the Indian team's new physical and mental conditioning and strategic leadership coach. So what exactly was the discussion all about? "I was discussing mental toughness issues with Paddy," Sehwag said. "It was quite good and hopefully, a few positives will come out of it."

Sehwag had admitted after India's tour to the West Indies in 2006 that discussions with another mental conditioning expert, Rudi Webster, brought on board by then coach Greg Chappell, had helped. "Rudi Webster was a big help," he said. "Paddy is (now) with the team, so hopefully we will get a lot of help. Few people can answer questions thrown up by batsmen about mental toughness but sometimes, someone like him can give us four-five ideas for the same question."

But what does an experienced player like Sehwag expect from a mental conditioning expert? "Nobody knows what I say to Paddy and he's not going to talk to anyone. So that inspires confidence," Sehwag said. "If you have been playing cricket for eight-nine years, sometimes you tend to forget small things. The moment someone reminds you about the things you were doing in the past and what you are doing now, you can talk about the small things. Everyone knows how you'll get the runs if you are going to play a Test. So pressure, dedication and motivation are the kind of things discussed."

He said trusting the expert was essential. "When I first met Paddy (on Friday), he told me whatever you guys discuss with me is confidential. So I'm trusting him. If he makes a mistake, I'll give him one more chance and after that I won't talk to him."

Asked (in reference to a turbulent phase of late) whether it was tougher to deal with the mental aspect or the technical, pat came the reply, "both". "I was not in the right mindset. I kept telling myself, 'I have done it in the past and can do it in the present too'. I struggled because I was trying to dominate from the first ball. In Australia, I took my time and took on bowlers after 15-16 overs."

If he is able to adopt the same approach from Wednesday, the formidable Proteas pace attack will surely be in for trouble.