England claim Twenty20 top spot
ENGLAND were licking their wounds en route between two great Indian cities when the announcement came. To their ranking as the best Test team in the world can now be added a similar status in Twenty20.
It must have felt as if they were being awarded an Oscar for previous work while the present employment consists of appearing in a straight-to-video slasher flick. The top spot was revealed in the inaugural ICC official ratings as the tourists arrived here on their charter flight from Mumbai. They also have the top batsman in Eoin Morgan and the second-placed bowler, Graeme Swann.
Unfortunately, England are coming towards the end of a series in which their stock in the third form of the game, 50-over one-day internationals, has plummeted within a month. At 4-0 down to India with the final match being played, they have fallen to fifth in the table, the sole consolation being that they cannot decline further even should they lose.
While two top rankings is not to be sniffed at, England's last desperate remaining desire is to win the World Cup, which is to be played in Australia and New Zealand in 2015. In that regard at least, the drubbing they have received around this country, is of no relevance.
Playing cricket in India is hugely different from playing in Australia and England's players will be much better suited to the environment in all respects. Equally that does not mean they are much good at present.
India have been clearly superior at every turn and if it has come as a surprise to England after two series wins at home last summer, it must have begun to dawn how off the pace they are. England's record in India is dreadful and becoming worse.
One win in the last 17 matches is bad enough but three of the four defeats here have been among their heaviest. India have taken 34 wickets, three times bowling out the opposition, to England's 18. India have scored eight fifties, two in each match, compared to England's four, three of which came in one match.
The tourists' playing of all types of bowling has been distinctly moderate but as usual here they have tied themselves into unfathomable knots against spin. This is a deeper mystery considering how accomplished their coach Andy Flower was against spin in general and in India in particular.
News of theTwenty20 elevation provided a welcome diversion from difficulties and might provide encouragement for the solitary Twenty20 match of this short tour, on Saturday.
Flower said: "The introduction of rankings for international Twenty20 cricket provides real context to the various series played."
Morgan's nomination as the world's best T20 player should ensure his value rises at the auctions for the Indian Premier League in January and a $1m pay day is very possible. It also underlines how much England have missed his perky, fearless innovation here.
There seems little point in retaining today the batting order that has so resoundingly failed in this series. If a hesitant Ravi Bopara is under particular threat, Craig Kieswetter has displayed limitations, never nailing his role, occasionally standing centre stage but more often forgetting the lines.
Ian Bell should play but that has been the case all series and he has yet to appear. Swann seems certain to return for Scott Borthwick. But victory now is as unexpected as such heavy losses were a month ago.