Sydney Thunder coach Paddy Upton has revealed the extraordinary details of a player’s emotional turmoil which rocked the defending champions just moments before they were bundled out of BBL06.
In a candid one-on-one chat with Paul Cochrane for the Spartan Sports Talk podcast on iTunes, Upton held back tears as he told of the struggle being felt by his overseas star James Vince and toll it took on the tight-knit group of players and staff.
The partner of the England international was in the UK and due to give birth according to Upton, “sometime between the seventh and eighth game” of the Thunder’s campaign.
“There were some complications that arose literally half an hour an hour before the game started and he was sitting in the parking lot talking to her on FaceTime and there were complications and a lot of concern from the teammates. That just shows how strong the team was,” Upton told Spartan Sports Talk.
“He came onto the field. All credit to him. We said to him just stay on the phone, stay on the phone to your partner, that’s much more important than a cricket match but he still came onto the field and he came onto the field knowing that there was potentially a problem with the birth back in the UK.”
“And even at halftime he came off the field and we still didn’t know what the situation was. Then four minutes, five minutes before he went out to bat the message comes into the change rooms. Congratulations, you’ve just become a Dad. Four minutes before going out to bat. That’s a proper mental challenge.”
Upton told Spartan Sports Talk the incident had a profound effect on the Thunder players and staff as they looked to keep their season alive.
Vince was dismissed on the second ball he faced and Strikers leg-spinner Ish Sodhi took a tournament –best 6-11 as the Thunder were bundled out for just 101.
“I had the decision as coach to pull him out of the game. There was still time. We had five minutes. The message came out five minutes before the toss. I had five minutes to decide do we put him on the field or not. And it was my call to put him on the field,” Upton said.
“For me, there were key moments in that game where I saw players not quite focused.”
Spartan Sports Talk host Paul Cochrane said it was clear the incident had impacted heavily on the coach, who had become a key confidant to the entire group.
“The conversation really evolved and Paddy began to reveal details as a way of showing just how close the Thunder franchise has become,” Cochrane said.
“At one point I did ask him if he was okay as he was getting quite emotional and it was very clear that it had had a considerable impact on him. Paddy is the kind of coach who invests heavily in his players and staff and seeing James Vince go through what he went through was tough on him and the entire group.”
“The podcast is a fascinating insight into how one of the best coaches in world cricket nurtures his players and extends the level of care and preparation beyond the sporting arena.”
Upton conceded despite having coached in elite cricket competitions all over the world, this was new territory for him as a leader of men.
“When you’re a long way from home and you don’t know and there’s a complication and you’ve got to walk onto a cricket field, flip, there’s a proper mental challenge.”
“There were some key learnings. We didn’t manage that very professionally or very well.”
Despite missing the finals 12 months after their breakthrough win, Upton told Spartan Sports Talk the club was well placed to have a serious crack at the title next season.
“Very confident. We really have developed a great team culture, team ethic, team environment,” he said.
“We will come back a team that handles distractions better.”
In the third episode of the popular Spartan Sports Talk series, Upton talks about his journey from first-class cricketer to coach of T20 franchises around world, including the Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League and the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL.
To listen to the Spartan Sports Talk podcast with Paddy Upton CLICK HERE