LONDON — England have already set new goals after reaching the coveted number one spot in the world rankings at the expense of India who face an unenviable task in the fourth Test starting today.
India, soundly thrashed in the first three Tests, have only pride to play for in a match which a capacity crowd at the Oval will use to acclaim their heroes.
“I always think it is very dangerous to hold on to what you have got,” reflected coach Andy Flower after his team destroyed India in the third Test at Edgbaston.
“We used that goal, to be number one, as a motivational tool that drove us in training and in matches. Now that we have achieved that, what (captain Andrew) Strauss and I don’t want to do is just hang on.
“That’s not a very exciting way to go about our business. We are going to have to reset out goals,”
Flower and Strauss have taken England from the depths of a series defeat in West Indies at the start of 2009 to successive Ashes victories followed by a ruthless demolition of World Cup champions India.
Their concentration on short-term goals, a disciplined work ethic and rigorous attention to detail has propelled England to the top of the rankings table and Flower is determined that his men do not rest of their hard-won laurels.
“Now we are ranked number one people will be very hungry to knock us off that perch, there is no doubt about that,” he said.
“It is one thing being good for a short period of time, but having a team that delivers some special results and has some special times together that they will remember for the rest of their lives, that will be a much better thing to look back on than a few victories here and there.
“This winter we go to play against two countries that the last time England toured, we lost. We want to go and play Pakistan and Sri Lanka away from home and win those series.
“Ignoring the ranking, those series will have their own importance. We have also got the world Test championship for the first time in 2013 and that’s in our own country.
“That is certainly something we are striving for — we have to be in the top four to get into the semi-finals and we are going to be working hard between now and then to ensure we are a strong unit ready for that semi-final.”
In the meantime, there is a final joust with an Indian side who looked a shambles at times in the field in Birmingham and whose attack was sub-standard in the continued absence of the injured Zaheer Khan.
India arrived in England with a rightly celebrated top order as strong as any in cricket history.
But only Rahul Dravid has lived up to expectations in the first three Tests and the world still awaits Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international century in what may be his final Test in England. Virender Sehwag’s return after injury in Birmingham ended in the ignominy of a king pair.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who scored two defiantly aggressive half-centuries at Edgbaston, made brave noises after his team’s humiliation by an innings and 242 runs within four days.
“We need to forget about the last three games, try to make the most of the fourth one” he said. “Take it as a one-Test series so you don’t have the burden of the last three Test matches you have played.” —Reuters