Pakistan cricket needs to shape up in World Cup year.

THE year of the World Cup hasn't started the way Pakistan would've liked. The home One-day InternAational series loss to New Zealand means Pakistan have virtually no room to give excuses and are instead better advised to look inward for genuine progress.

Besides winning the ODI series, New Zealand also kept Pakistan on the backfoot in the preceding drawn two-Test rubber too. Just like the ODIs, both Tests were played at Karachi's National Stadium and the hosts were saved by a whisker in the end. Had Sarfaraz Ahmed not struck a superb last-day century in the final Test, Babar Azam and company would have suffered their third consecutive Test series defeat at home.

Playing at home definitely puts the host team in a relatively more advantageous position. But it is a double-edged sword; sometimes a slight gaffe, or a flurry of them, can prove stinging for a side in their own backyard.

And this is what denied Pakistan in their bumper home season, during which they lost the Test series to Australia and England, capitulated in a Twenty20 rubber against a second-string England. The action ended on a disturbing note with the ODI series defeat to New Zealand.

Talking specifically of ODIs, one can safely say that Babar-led Pakistan, before the last two New Zealand ODIs, had fared pretty well with nine wins and one loss over the past year or so. The series trouncing in the end ruined all the good work.

'New Zealand played better cricket than Pakistan; the visitors adapted to the playing conditions, which were alien to them, more effectively than the host team,' former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal told Dawn.

'Teams winning away series against good opponents means they are better than the home side,' Asif, who is based in England, added.

'Overall, Pakistan have played well in recent limited-overs cricket, including the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia where they reached the final but losing series on home turf is worrying.'

If Pakistan cannot adjust to the conditions in their own territory to outsmart the opponents, then surely it is not a good omen for the country.

When former Test batter Ijaz Ahmed was sought to underline the reasons behind the national team's below par showing in key international games and that too at home, he pinpointed dearth of quality cricket conditions in the country.

'We in Pakistan [domestic circuit and home international series] are not producing fine-quality cricket, mainly due to the playing conditions which do not allow...

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