A new set of professionals are tiptoeing their way into IPL teams, swelling their already wide-ranging list of support staff. The new entrant comes with the tag of mental skills coach, motivational speaker or mental conditioning coach.
While it's mostly those like the high-profile Rudi Webster, a sports psychologist, Mike Horn, an extreme adventure junkey, and Paddy Upton, India's former mental conditioning coach, donning these hats, Delhi Daredevils have made an interesting choice in hiring a yoga trainer, whose job is to keep the players physically as well as mentally fit.
James Harrington, an Australia-born and South Africa-based yoga trainer, briefly worked with the India team on their previous tour of South Africa. "It was a good experience to work with them but I didn't find them too keen to add yoga to their training schedule. But it's quite different here, with everyone keen to try their hands at it," said Harrington.
Cricket, Harrington believes, is stuck on tradition and many things are done the way they have been all the time. "One must realise the IPL is a pressure tournament. You play late night matches, have early morning flights and hence don’t even get adequate sleep. So, there's a lot of pressure and it will help if someone is there to keep the players in right frame of mind amidst all this."
The yoga trainer believes his role and that of his ilk becomes even more critical in a tournament like the IPL where many youngsters are suddenly exposed to money, fame and glamour. “We help keep them grounded.”
Harrington lists the various postures and relaxation techniques. "All this helps players to overcome their personal obstacles and be in a better space while performing," he said.
IPL can also provide the healing touch. Kiwi batsman Jesse Ryder, struggling with his drink problem, had decided to take an indefinite break from cricket before joining the Pune Warriors with clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo in tow.