Karachi: Former Pakistan captains Shahid Afridi and Rashid Latif reckon it's not their national team but India that has emerged as the early front-runner to win the ICC Champions Trophy.
They said on Thursday that India, with their strong batting line-up, could pose a tough challenge to any team. "India's strength is their batting and they can pose problems for opposing teams, but a lot will depend on the conditions they encounter during the tournament," Afridi said.
Latif supported the decision of the Indian team management to promote Rohit Sharma to open the innings. "The Indian think tank has taken a wise decision because Rohit is a class player and this will allow him to play through an innings and pace his batting," Latif said.
"I think Rohit can follow in the footsteps of Sachin Tendulkar who blossomed in one-day internationals once he was promoted to open the innings. Rohit has a lot of talent but so far he has batted lower down the order.
"This has stopped him from giving his best. But now that he is opening the innings, I think he will be a more improved and consistent batsman," Latif added.
He also picked Virat Kohli as another quality batsman for India. "He is a fighter and he is reliable most of the time."
Afridi said both Rohit and Kohli have important roles to play for India in the Champions Trophy. "They are very talented players and I think they have important roles to play in this tournament for India."
Asked about India's match with Pakistan, Afridi said it would be a closely contested encounter. "On paper both teams are equally balanced... if India has the edge in batting, Pakistan has a good bowling attack, so it should be a very interesting match. But obviously, I think Pakistan will be hard to beat," Afridi said.
Both agreed that it would be a folly to make predictions on the basis of results in warm-up matches. "I don't think we will have same sort of batting pitches in the group matches that we had in the warm up games," Latif said.