When the England team flew out of Birmingham at lunchtime the day after their Edgbaston win against South Africa, en route to Sri Lanka and the World Twenty20, they did so in the knowledge that not only were they on the way to defending the title they won so handsomely in Barbados more than two years ago but that they were considered by the international game's governing body to be the best side in the business at both short forms of the game.
This is a heady position to be in and no matter that one-day rankings are from the same stable that marks the England football team down as being the world's third best side. At least they are some measure of consistency over a period of time.
But T20 is such a difficult format to measure in such an empirical way. That there have been too few matches to make for a meaningful sample is one aspect but another was illustrated on Wednesday in emphatic fashion by the young Somerset tyro Jos Buttler in his single-over destruction of the South Africa pace bowler Wayne Parnell and his 32 runs off 10 balls.
On such instant shifts of impetus can whole matches and indeed competitions swing. Buttler changed the course of the match just as Mike Hussey disposed of Pakistan's hopes with his last ditch assault on Saeed Ajmal in the semi-final last time around: Ajmal is regarded as the leading one-day bowler in the business. There are some things for which one simply cannot legislate and, on that basis, making anyone favourite for this competition is an exercise in futility.
Planning plays its part. Indeed T20 can, increasingly, be broken down into single-over passages of play almost by rote. In the last tournament the job of the England captain, Paul Collingwood, was helped by the knowledge that, unless things went seriously wrong, the bowling plans, in terms of who bowled when, were pretty much set in stone.
Batting, too, may go that way eventually: how long before a player, whose sole job is to score no fewer than, say, 30 runs from the first 15 balls he faces, has but 20 in that time and is actually retired? Against that though, batting, for all the apparent bashing, has become more sophisticated, with an ever-widening repertoire of exotic strokes on offer.
To counter this bowlers have had to become considerably more versatile and intuitive, looking for signals, attempting to second-guess. It becomes a game within a game. The standard of fielding is now from a different planet from that it occupied even five years ago.
Last time England thought they had their plans in place weeks beforehand only for them to be torn to shreds, firstly by the success against them of their A team opponent opening pair of Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb, whom Andy Flower had the presence of mind to draft into the squad, and secondly by the last-minute rejection of Jimmy Anderson, replaced by Ryan Sidebottom on the basis that Collingwood's IPL experience had shown that successful sides there had the variation of a left-arm pace man. It proved a master stroke.
What plans England have this time we have yet to see fully, although we can be certain they do not involve Kevin Pietersen, for which, undeniably, they will be significantly the weaker. But in Kieswetter and Alex Hales they have power up front, while Luke Wright may have a role to finish the powerplays. There are young thunderbloods in Jonny Bairstow and Buttler and in Eoin Morgan, one of the most innovative and calculating batsmen in the business.
There is no left-arm pace man this time but Jade Dernbach, along with Graeme Swann, could prove to be one of the tournaments most valuable bowlers. Perhaps the biggest decision will be whether it is to be Steven Finn's pace, profligate as it can be, or Tim Bresnan's reliability and batting that makes the cut. Last time Australia tried out-and-out pace, reached the final and then came unstuck against Kieswetter and Pietersen.
Pallekele, where England play their group matches, is said to swing and have good carry. It will be an interesting selection process. We must not forget that the England women also go to Sri Lanka next week to try to win back the trophy they pretty much handed to Australia last time. They will go as unquestioned favourites now, having won 18 matches on the trot. Complacency and a lack of the sort of competition that case-hardens a side could be their only enemy.
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image: © JJ Hall