Karachi December 21, 2022: Keeping their best fast bowlers fit and firing will be a key focus for Pakistan ahead of next year's ICC Cricket World Cup in India, according to captain Babar Azam.
Pakistan all but fell out of contention of reaching next year's ICC World Test Championship final when they fell to a disappointing 3-0 series sweep to England in the red-ball series that finished in Karachi on Tuesday.
Babar's side played some good cricket at times during the home series, but failed to perform with the consistency required and couldn’t cover the host of key players they missed through injury.
Pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi (knee) sat out the entire series, while young gun Naseem Shah (shoulder) and white-ball specialist Haris Rauf (quad) failed to feature in the final two Tests after playing the series opener in Rawalpindi.
The injuries saw Pakistan blood six debutants against England and Babar admitted it was a difficult task taking on England with such an inexperienced line-up.
"We were unfortunate that our fast bowlers weren't fit," Babar said.
"When new fast bowlers come in, it's difficult, especially when England play the way they do because they don't let Pakistan settle.
"You need the kind of bowlers who get you 20 wickets. If you don't, you won't win.
"There's so much back-to-back cricket, you have to be ready all the time.
"Fitness becomes ultra-important, because if you aren't perfectly fit you won't be able to play all three (matches).
"These days you only get two or three days to switch formats and you have to be mentally ready too. A lot of things happened together at the same time."
Pakistan host New Zealand for a two-match Test series commencing later this month and still could sneak into the World Test Championship final with victories during those contests and with other results falling their way.
But it's likely the next big stage Pakistan will have to showcase their talented playing outfit will come in India next year when the 50-over Cricket World Cup takes place in October and November.
Pakistan host New Zealand and the West Indies for white-ball series early in the New Year and will also play in the 2023 Asia Cup before embarking on the 50-over showcase in India towards the end of the year.
With plenty of white-ball cricket on the horizon for Pakistan over the next 12 months, Babar said it will be vital to keep his powerful group of fast bowlers fresh.
"There have been difficult times this series," Babar said.
"With new players, it's different because when the opposition attacks them, it places a sharper kind of pressure on them. It takes time to get used to that.
"We'll try and look after our quicks better because there are back-to-back series and the World Cup is coming up, so we'll have to plan with a view to that."