New Delhi, May 19: Known for his fearless batting and combative on-field personality, Gautam Gambhir is equally forthright when giving out predictions for the World Cup.
The former left-hander has asserted that defending champions Australia are firm favourites to successfully retain their crown at the upcoming 50-over mega event in England and Wales while picking out hosts England and India as his second favourites.
"Australia are my first favourite. They should definitely play the final and their opposition in the final will be between two of my joint second-favourite teams, England and India," Gambhir was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
Pointing out that England have a well balanced squad, Gambhir asserted that the presence of four all-rounders lend extra strength to the hosts.
"Not because England are playing at home. Of late they are an improved side, having quality cricketers in almost all the positions. They are balanced. With Jofra Archer, England will be a force to reckon with. They are blessed with four genuine all-rounders, of which mentions should be made of Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali," he said.
Gambhir had earlier told the International Cricket Council's (ICC) official website that India should have included one more fast bowler in their 15-man World Cup squad.
India have a three-pronged pace attack for the tournament, with Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami expected to play the role of frontline strike bowlers.
All-rounders Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar offer excellent options as supporting pacers.
However, with all three frontline fast bowlers likely to feature in the playing XI, the India may feel the lack of a back-up option if one of them picks up an injury.
"I feel that the Indian team lacks one more quality fast bowler. Bumrah, Shami and Bhuvi need more support. You may argue that India has two fast bowling all-rounders in Hardik and Vijay Shankar, but I am not convinced," Gambhir had told icc-cricket.com.
"As far as batting is concerned, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will have to score heavily. In the bowling, Jasprit Bumrah will be the X-factor. It should be a very interesting World Cup and there will be tough fight among at least six countries. Each team will have to play with each other in this World Cup. Teams will have to be on their toes for all the matches. No team can afford to relax in any of the group league matches."
With several West Indies doing well in this year's Indian Premier League (IPL), they are being widely counted as a sort of dark horses for the World Cup. The presence of quality all-rounders in their squad also make the men from the Carribean islands potentially trickey competitiors.
Gambhir however, disagrees with the idea.
"Because a few of the West Indies cricketers have done well in the IPL, they are being discussed. But I think it will be different in a 50-over game. Do they have good spinners? Answer is no. I am not very convinced that only pace bowlers can win you the Cup," he remarked.
The 37-year-old also opined that self-belief is an essential ingredient of any team aspiring to win the World Cup.
"First of all, self-belief. Everyone in the team should have the confidence that they can win the Cup. Then, to perform consistently. Planning and implementation is also very important. And on top of it, the team should have a happy dressing room. Everyone should know about the minute details of the problems and their solutions," Gambhir said.
"If any team can tick all of these boxes, they have a better chance of winning the World Cup," he added.
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