Last summer's 4-0 whitewash over India - who England replaced at the summit of the test rankings - proved just how far England have came under the stewardship of Andy Flower, especially after the disastrous reign of Peter Moores a few years back. England dealt with India like Manchester United dealt with Arsenal in August, annihilating them. There was no sympathy from England, they went to the field and went about their job in a determined, inexorable manner.
Sachin Tendulkar, famously, failed to reach his one hundredth hundred despite the constant expectation surrounding him everytime he walked out onto the crease. But by the conclusion of the series, the focus had drifted away from Tendulkar like a sudden sandstorm, the focus, and quite rightly, was on just how well England played.
India, however, didn't help themselves. They were as bad as England were good. A convincing one-day series victory followed but when England made the return trip to India for the one-dayers, things turned a little bit sour. Andrew Strauss' England were thrashed. Humiliated. Outbatted, outbowled, and done over by spin. It was clear they faced an almighty challenge to cope with sub-continent conditions ahead of the 2012 winter trip to the UAE to take on Pakistan.
By their own admission, though, they didn't utilise their time and turned up in Dubai almost ready to be bowled over and defeated. The now old-age debate of too many days away from home on tours is certainly a reason as to why England failed in sub-continent conditions once more, and, to a certain degree, it's a valid excuse.
Ajmel, Pakistan's main threath from the bowling, skittled England out constantly with his spin, with the aid of the DRS system, which was catching the batsmen, of both teams to be fair, out when the ball was adjudged to be on course to hit the stumps if it wasn't for the obstructing leg of the batsmen. This was the world's number one test team being made to look like fools; they had an awful lot of work to do to adapt to the sub-continent conditions in time for the one-dayers.
And, as if by magic, they did. It was an unbeliavable turn around, England were transformed by captain Alistair Cook; Cooky, seen by many as captain-in-waiting for the test captaincy, is part of the trio of captains under this current England team: Strauss captains the test and Stuart Broad captains the fledging Twenty20 team who have a lot of exciting options in the likes of Jos Butler, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes.
Cook hit two successive centuries in the first one-dayers opening with Kevin Pieterson, who is in at the top order from his usual fourth spot to revitalise the big hitter who had endured a torrid test series. England won 3-0 and reinjected the lost pride into themselves. They then won the T20 series 2-1, Jade Dernbach taking a wicket in the final ball of the last game against the Pakistanians to prevent the hosts for smashing the six they needed to take the crown themselves.
With a tour to Sri Lanka in the near-future, too, it poses a fascinating test for England as to whether or not they have finally cracked the sub-continent conudrum. It promises to be a captivating year for English cricket.