London: Ian Botham expects England to hold onto their world number one status for "quite a while now", provided they learn from the disappointments of their recent series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. England climbed to the top of the Test match rankings after whitewashing India 4-0 in England last year. But no sooner had they reached the top of the International Cricket Council's standings, Andrew Strauss's side were beaten 3-0 by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and fell behind in Sri Lanka before drawing a two-match series 1-1.
"England are a good team," former captain Botham, one of England's greatest all-rounders, said on Tuesday. "I don't know what went wrong in the first part of the [northern hemisphere] winter. It was really weird, all of that. The bowlers were magnificent throughout, and it has to be said the batsmen just didn't turn up. Why that is, I haven't got a clue and I don't think they know. But they are still number one and I think they are going to stay at number one for quite a while now."
Botham added: "I think this winter is part of the learning curve. Sometimes you can go in at number one and get a little blase. Suddenly you get bitten on the bum. In professional sport, that's what happens. If you put your guard down, someone will bite you on the bum, but I think England will come good again now."
England have got a busy schedule with West Indies, South Africa, India and New Zealand on the horizon.
"There is a lot of cricket over the next three or four years that is going to be exciting, but England will be up to it. A lot is being made of the challenge England will face with the spin in India next winter. I think we are all blowing that up too much. It's a bit of mind games and England are better than that. They won't worry too much about that."
Botham also backed Strauss to stay on as captain despite the left-handed opener suffering two poor series with the bat. "You are always going to get over-the-top stuff. You are always going to get that with certain elements of the media. It's like Kevin Pietersen. Two or three weeks ago, some people wanted Kevin Pietersen out. What planet are these people on! Strauss is good enough to carry on for another couple of years. He deserves to."
Botham was speaking at the conclusion of the Birmingham-Clent Hills leg of his latest walk across Britain in aid of raising funds for leukaemia research. The England hero has raised millions of pounds in an effort to combat leukaemia, a form of cancer, since undertaking his first charity walk nearly 30 years ago and is in no mood to stop now.
"I'm 56, approaching 57. I want to do something in my 60th year, so I've got plenty of time to work on that," he said. "I am also doing something in Sri Lanka, another project which we are going to recce in November and hopefully undertake the following year."