Does the Hicks-Botham particle exist?
Many things in life are counterintuitive. The earth, it turns out, is not as flat as it looks. The numbers 1,2,3,4,5, and 6 are as likely to win you the lottery as any other combination. Dale Steyn's childhood pet was a prize-winning Pekinese called Sparkles. And England are top of the one-day international rankings.
Thinking this anomaly might prove the existence of the mysterious Hick-Botham particle, scientists at CERN have been firing the rankings through their big collider. But it doesn't matter how many times you smash the numbers together in a high-energy underground particle accelerator, the results are still the same.
When England first topped the rankings last year, Haroon Lorgat marched down to the algorithm facility in the ICC's basement and demanded to speak to the operator of the clearly malfunctioning ratingsometer:
"Sir, I assure you, the device is working perfectly."
"Nonsense, it just needs a bit of a kick!"
But despite a clout about the hard drive from Haroon, and several reboots, the machine continues to stubbornly cough up the same answer. So while engineers take the thing apart to find the cause of the malfunction, for the time being, we have no choice but to work on the assumption that England really are top of the one-day rankings. Imagine then, how Ashley Giles felt when the previous coach handed over the one-day team to him.
"There you are, Ashley, I've done what I can with it, you know, I mean its not a bad squad, a few new parts, a bit creaky here and there, see what you can do."
"Okay. So how far did you take it?"
"Top of the one-day rankings."
"Really? Top of the rankings? How did you…?"
"Oh it wasn't that hard. Right, I'm off to put the gardeners through their pre-breakfast warm-ups before they get started on my pond. Have fun in India and try not to mess up…"
I don't mean to be disrespectful, but have you seen the England squad? Briggs, Buttler, Tredwell, Samit Patel, Root, Meaker, Kieswetter? The best you could do with this collection is to mould them into a unit that is more than the sum of their parts and somehow, with a fair wind, a bit of fortune and a few big hits from KP, scramble to the summit against the odds and look down, temporarily, upon the rest of the cricket world, nodding smugly to yourself and saying, "What do you think of that then?"
But Andy Flower has already done that. So what is there left for the new guy to do?
Ordinarily, an English squad made up of youngsters, recuperating invalids and bits-and-pieces players would have as much chance of success on a limited-overs tour of India as a collection of fluffy bunny rabbits going shark fishing in a boat made of straw. But these are strange times. Like an enthusiastic amateur builder, England don't have the tools, but think they'll be fine. India do have the tools, the certificate and several years on the job experience, but they're so depressed they don't want to get out of their van.
This could be a strange old series.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England