For the Pakistan team, the hardest battle is of the mind

Published: March 18, 2011
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After a hard fight, against all odds, a win can take you to cloud nine.

As any die hard Pakistan supporter can attest to, sport can be full of hope one week and result in complete misery and disarray the next.

It can be a cruel business. After a hard fight, against all odds, a win can take you to cloud nine and a feeling of being invincible can follow. You get on the team bus and Pehli Nazar Mein (my favourite song) is playing at full volume.

But before you know it, a few days later this feeling is followed by a swift kick to the stomach that makes all air leave your body and you feel you may never breathe again. You want to shrivel up and die.

One of my good rugby friends, who is still playing in Australia, wrote an article discussing how his team scored one of those against-all-the-odds wins. Then, the next week at their team meeting the players discussed the win and the upcoming game.

One of the experienced players quoted the great philosopher Confuscious, “The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.” Maybe the guys were already looking at the future and thinking of winning the next game! Maybe, but I would doubt it.

I just think that this is such a useful phrase for our boys. With such a great start to the tournament, perhaps the boys needed to regroup and start the tournament again. The psychological battle is the biggest battle Pakistan cricketers face.

When we toured India in 2007 during the One-Day International series, we needed to win the last game for a respectable scoreline of 3-2 rather than 4-1.

During our innings, a wicket fell and as the next batsman walked in, I noticed that we had two batsmen who were not known for their academic prowess. I sat laughing and suggested to the manager that these two may as well stand at the same end together.

The psychological part was something I had hoped that we would work on during our training sessions together.

In the case of the New Zealand game it seemed that there was indeed a lack of execution. Perhaps a series win only a few months earlier was playing on their minds. Maybe they were already thinking ahead.

Having been with the team for so long, and having seen the good job Waqar Younis is doing with the side, I doubt it. What I do know is that the great Younis will not let it happen a second time. It just takes a moment to stop, reboot the brain and start all over again.

The older players are not the sort of players who take a beating like they did against New Zealand lightly. Shahid Afridi is a proud and competitive player who hates losing. Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq are players who will want to prove a point. All it takes is a moment to step back, take a deep breath and start thinking and executing again.

Published in The Express Tribune.

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david.dwyer

David Dwyer

The writer is Pakistan’s former training and conditioning coach

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.