Sunil Gavaskar has tagged England as tournament favourites for the upcoming World Cup, ranking them ahead of the Virat Kohli-led India.
England have rapidly progressed in ODI cricket following the group-stage exit in the 2015 World Cup. Having packed their side with explosive power hitters and skillful all-rounders, England's dominance in the 50-over format is exemplified by victories in their last 8 ODI series at home.
Although England have never been able to lift the World Cup trophy, having made it to the finals three times previously, they will fancy their chances in home conditions.
"England, not India, are the favourites for this World Cup," Gavaskar told AFP.
"They have been playing outstanding cricket over the last few years and in familiar home conditions will be hard to beat," he added.
Home advantage is expected to play a significant role in deciding the ultimate victors, reinforced by the trend witnessed in the last two World Cups that saw the hosts triumph in the final.
England recently swept Pakistan away 4-0 in the five-match ODI series at home, consistently racking up totals in excess of 340. They will take on South Africa in the tournament opener at The Oval on May 30.
Second-ranked India also start the World Cup as favourites with their charismatic leader Virat Kohli at the center of the action.
Kohli's unquestionable form with the bat has seen him score heavily across all conditions, also piling on a heap of runs in England last summer.
Despite his exceptional batsmanship, Kohli's captaincy has often attracted criticism for lacking the venom and shrewd tactics employed by his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The 30-year-old's record in charge of the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Indian Premier League (IPL) further drives home this point as RCB finished last in the eight-team table this year.
"On an individual level he (Kohli) certainly can be as successful (in England) as he was last year for sure," said Gavaskar, who was a member of India's World Cup-winning side in 1983.
"But a captain is only as good as his team and Dhoni's presence takes a big load off Kohli, especially after the first power play," said Gavaskar, dubbed as the 'Little Master' in his playing days.
Gavaskar supported right-hand batsman Lokesh Rahul to fill in India's much-debated number four position in the batting lineup. KL Rahul scored a fine century against Bangladesh during the side's second warm-up game, making his case strong for a slot in India's top 4.
Gavaskar, meanwhile, declined to comment on India's initially proposed boycott of the World Cup game against Pakistan amidst the backdrop of hostile political relations between the two nations.
The Indo-Pak clash scheduled to take place on June 16 at Old Trafford was clouded in uncertainty after several former Indian players intensified calls for a boycott in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The suicide bombing in Pulwama claimed the lives of 40 security forces with the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claiming responsibility for the attack.
India has frequently alleged Pakistan of providing sanctuaries to violent militants engaging in attacks against the Indian government. The Islamabad administration, however, has dismissed playing any role in logistically aiding the planners of the Pulwama attack.
"In a World Cup there is no option but to play all teams," Gavaskar spoke on the matter, evading commenting on the clash against Pakistan directly.