• Upton: This is a clear and more mature Steven Smith

    Paddy Upton is one of the leading cricketing brains in the game today – and has the unique opportunity of working with former Aussie skipper Steve Smith in the ongoing Indian Premier League ahead of the World Cup in the United Kingdom later this year.

    SACricketMag.com: How is Steve Smith looking after his year out of international cricket?

    Upton: I have never met a person who loves a sport more than Steve Smith loves batting. He’s super excited and energised to have a bat back in his hands, and to be back in the Rajasthan Royals squad. He’s been with the Royals before and he’s part of the family, so it’s very familiar to him. Add to his excitement, we’re equally excited to have him as part of the Royals family.

    SAC: It’s obviously been a testing year for Smith… is he battle-ready?

    Upton: He’s done some wonderful personal work in processing and facing and moving on from what happened to him in Newlands, so it’s a very fresh and clear and more mature Steve Smith that’s arrived at the Royals for this year’s IPL. Both him the Royals have lots to look forward to.

    SAC: How is the Royals squad shaping up?

    Upton: The 2019 campaign, in my view, is probably the strongest and most balanced team that the Rajasthan Royals have arrived with at an IPL tournament, and this squad has the most depth I’ve seen representing the franchise. What has been really exciting for me in my first year back with the Royals since 2015 is to see how the team and the whole franchise is just so much more professional and even better organised. The attention to detail has been amazing and that allows us all to raise our game, which is what you want as a professional athlete or coach. It’s a great squad and a superbly professional outfit.

    SAC: The IPL is a demanding tournament mentally and physically… so do you think the Royals have what it takes to challenge for the title?

    Upton: In 2019 we have one of the most balanced squads we’ve had to date, and it’s this depth and quality that just sets us up with a really good chance of doing well. Add to this the overall professionalism and the fact that we have a very happy team environment, there’s every reason the Royals could make a strong challenge for the title this year.

    – Upton is the head coach of the Rajasthan Royals in the 2019 IPL. His new book, The Barefoot Coach (Life-changing insights from working with the world’s best cricketers), will be available in South Africa on 15 May.

    Simon Lewis

    Photo: SPORTZPICS for BCCI | Rahul Gulati

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