Mike Tyson, one of the greatest boxers of all time, once said:

“My opponents lose the fight before they even got hit. I knew how to beat these guys psychologically even before I got into the ring with them. I walk around the ring and never take my eyes off my opponent. I keep my eyes on him even if he is pumped. I keep my eyes on him, I keep my eyes on him, I keep my eyes on him, and then once I see a chink in his eyes then BOOM! One of his eyes made a move. Now I know I have him. He stares back at me with his big eyes but I know I have him. He has already made the mistake when he took his eyes off me for 1/10th of a second. That’s all I need; an opportunity. Now, he’s all mine.”

The difference between a challenger and a champion is the ability to pounce on the opponent’s mistakes. A champion is an opportunist. He waits and he waits and then grabs the opportunity with both hands because in the back of his mind he knows for a fact that concentration and mental toughness are the only margins of victory.

I couldn’t help but think of all this the entire time I saw Virat Kohli bat so masterfully under immense pressure against the mighty Australians. The way he stuck to the crease even when wickets kept tumbling the other end and the way with which he finished off reflected what Pakistan’s entire team lacks: mental toughness. It’s not that our players don’t have the talent or the skill to outclass other teams; believe me we have a way more talented team than the rest of the world. But our basic problem is relying too heavily on unpolished talent. Top class teams do not rely on one “talented” batsman and one “talented” bowler only to win them a match. They don’t rely on one of their superstars to miraculously win them a match every time. They don’t build a team around a fragile, aging, all-rounder, they select players on merit and they certainly do not give chances to selfish players, fighting within the team for bragging rights. Top teams are built through discipline, unity, adaptability and mental toughness.

I have seen many highs and lows of Pakistan cricket over the past ten years or so but to me the problem remains the same: lack of belief. Whether it's Pakistan not winning against arch rivals India in World Cups or bowlers bowling wayward under pressure, or the batsmen not being able to finish off crucial games or the captains making wrong decisions, these issues may seem very different from one another but the problem was, is and will always remain the same.

Take the likes of Bangladesh cricket team for example. Bangladesh have transformed from a team that would be an easy win for the opponents to the team that now gives everyone a run for their money. This transformation has not happened overnight. They have, somehow, found the belief that was missing in them for quite some time. They believe they are better than the rest and that is why they fight till the last ball is bowled.

Our players are like the baby eagles that were raised in the nest of pigeons, not realizing their potential of soaring sky high. The sooner they realize what they’re capable of, the better. Our players need to find heroes within them and need to stop comparing themselves with others. They need to believe. And the moment they start doing that, they’ll start winning.