Paddy's new job and the Swiss gamble
The fact that Paddy Upton has been elevated to performance director of the Proteas is no surprise. Gary Kirsten doesn’t undertake any coaching assignment without Upton firmly at his side.
Upton originally was the fitness coach under Hansie Cronje. In those days he was responsible for physical conditioning only, which was his area of expertise.
He has evidently broadened his skill set since then, becoming a life coach and mental conditioning expert as well. Kirsten used him in this role while he was working with India. Initially when Kirsten took over the Proteas the idea was that Upton would work with the team on a consultancy basis coming in and out when required.
Kirsten clearly felt that the time was right to bring him on board full time to assist both the players and the coaching staff in an effort to bring the best out of everyone. The Upton appointment hasn’t been the only tactical decision that has been taken lately.
The other interesting decision that the tour management has made is to go to Switzerland first on a team building quest which has little to do with pure cricket preparation. They have decided to spend some time with adventurer Mike Horn at his mountain retreat. This is apparently a team bonding exercise.
Kirsten has made no bones of the fact that he is no lover of practice matches on tour. According to him, he didn’t find them particularly beneficial and didn’t want to waste runs in them. That in itself is an interesting theory that not everyone agrees with.
The thing about thinking out of the box and coming up with different ideas - as the tour management puts it across - is when it works everyone buys into these strokes of genius, but if they fail there is nowhere to hide.
It will be very fascinating to see which team is successful over the next couple of months. England have kept their head down and played cricket. They have played test matches, one-day internationals and T20 games in a highly competitive international environment. A more traditional way of preparing.
The Proteas have done the opposite. They have opted to get away from the game in an effort to keep their players fresh. They continue to do so with their latest venture into the mountains and glaciers.
Which method will prevail? The normal one or the funky one? Who knows, but what I can tell you is that all concerned with this all important upcoming series will be starting to get just a bit nervous.