Paddy Upton

Ten lessons from winning the World Cup

winning the world cup

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of India’s 2011 Cricket World Cup victory.

  1. Winning once doesn’t mean you’re the best – you just won at that moment in time. Losing also doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough. Real and sustained success happens when good people consistently do the right things in the right way.
  2. Winning is like an orgasm, it happens suddenly, and then it’s over. The substance is in the journey.
  3. On the journey to the top, every single team member needs to take the lead when it’s their time. When it’s not, they need to fall in line and back whoever the person is who is leading in that moment. Indian Captain MS Dhoni didn’t deliver once with the bat in seven games leading up to the final. Yet in the final, he took the call to go in ahead of the in-form and man-of-the-tournament Yuvraj Singh. It was Dhoni’s time to stand up. With a personal tally of 91 runs later, he delivered the match winning six.
  4. Winning a big moment is not about ‘not panicking’, rather it’s about panicking a bit less than the other guys.
  5. For 3 years we planned to win the World Cup, won it, and then Gary (Kirsten) and I left. We never spoke about ‘what next’. India did poorly for the next 18 months. It’s similar for mountaineers, where 80% of those who die on the mountain, die on the way down. They also only planned to get to the top. Don’t just plan to win once, set up to keep winning.
  6. In sport, the stories we tell after the fact to explain why we won or why we lost are selective, incomplete, and somewhat misleading. As World Cup winners, we were good, and also lucky. We did many things right, and made many mistakes. We were just lucky that others just got punished more for theirs. Be humble in victory.
  7. Hangovers are over-rated.
  8. If you want to know what is best for someone who works for you, who you work for, or are in almost any relationship with – don’t guess, ASK. Most often they know best.
  9. Sport is just a game. Really, it’s just a game. So is life – no one gets out alive. Less serious, more enjoyment.
  10. In reference to point 8 above. What’s your best lessons from victory? Figure it, then keep applying it.


Some facts

  • 2011 remains India’s only World Cup victory in the past 38 years, since 1983.
  • This was the first time any team won a World Cup on home soil
  • The 2 April 2011 victory marked the last day of my three-year tenure as ‘Mental Conditioning and Strategic Leadership’ Coach of that team, as it did with Head Coach Gary Kirsten.
  • During those three years, India also achieved the World No.1 Test cricket ranking for their first time ever
  • Following this, Gary and I worked in similar roles with the South African cricket team, during which time we took that World No. 1 Test mantle from India, and then went on to became the first team ever to simultaneously hold the World No. 1 ranking in all three formats of the international game
  • These few facts would not sound nearly as impressive if I also mentioned all the games and tournaments where we blew it. In truth, I probably learned more and grew more through a decently long list of losses – but who puts that shit on their CV 🙂

4 thoughts on “Ten lessons from winning the World Cup”

  1. Thanks for your contribution Paddy ! They say It’s All in the Mind ! ..and you proved it Right !! Wish they would’ve had the foresight & good fortune to have you and Gary carry on longer but alas…And They Happily Lived Ever After syndrome does take over. Keep up the Good Work !! Truly Inspired !!

  2. I am a 17 yeat old cricketer and I am glad I am able to learn a lot from you sir. The 9th point just hit me. I really need to enjoy the game more and take less stress. Thank you. Love from India.
    Loved the article Sir.

  3. Thanks, Paddy. Only wish you could inject some of your magic into SA cricket but given the state of our game currently probably better you stay well away. Well, at least for the sake of your CV.

  4. Krrishan Singhania

    I read your columns with great interest and would love to receive them on my email in particular loosing a game is not loosing life training youngsters to remain motivated to work hard and their best

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