Sunil Gavaskar, the former India batsman, has picked hosts England over India as the favourites to win the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
Gavaskar pointed to England’s overhaul since the previous edition, in 2015 when they crashed out of the group stage, as the reason behind his prediction.
Since then, England have won 51 out of 77 ODIs, racked up the highest total in ODI cricket, and ascended to the top of the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Rankings. “The strong favourites in the World Cup tournament are England," Gavaskar told India Today. "And it is not just because it will be a home World Cup for them, but because they have changed their attitude towards ODI cricket.
“Since 2015, the manner in which they changed their game, the way in which they picked their team – England have grown into a strong side. They have a good opening pair, they have strong middle-order batters, they also have a good all-rounder, and when you play at home, you also have a strong backing."
That said, Gavaskar also felt India’s recent experience of playing in England will hold them in good stead.
Since 2017, India have played the Champions Trophy in England, where they made the final. Then, last year, they visited the country for a full tour, comprising three T20Is, three ODIs, and five Tests.
“One advantage India have is they have played in England for two consecutive years,” he said. “So the players who will be part of the World Cup squad will be aware of the conditions, and hence will be able to use their experience. Probably, India can use the factor to lift the World Cup. But I feel the favourites are England, and then India.”
Alongside India and England, Gavaskar picked Australia and Pakistan as the four semi-finalists, and identified New Zealand as the dark horse. “Pakistan have always been a formidable side,” he said. “And the Australian team will look strong with the return of Steve Smith and David Warner.
"These four teams will be in the semi-finals. New Zealand could also spring a surprise because conditions in England are similar to theirs."