With less than four months to go for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, former Pakistan pacer Wasim Akram has declared Team India firm favourites for the showpiece event in the United Kingdom.
The World Cup starts on May 30 with South Africa taking on hosts England, while the two-time World champions India begin their campaign on June 5 against the Proteas at Southampton.
"Among the teams that are involved in the cricket World Cup, Pakistan have always been an outfit that people loved to watch and follow. You can never write them off. India look firm favourites for me. New Zealand are the dark horses, but Pakistan are right up there," Akram wrote in his column for TOI.
The fast bowling legend also credited Pakistan Super League and the PCB for the revival of cricket in the country. He believes playing England in five ODIs just before the World Cup will help Pakistan immensely in the marquee event.
"I'll give credit to the Pakistan Super League and our board for the resurgence of Pakistan cricket. We have a young side - apart from a Mohammad Hafez and a Shoaib Malik, everyone is in their mid 20s. They are young, as well as experienced. The fielding also has improved. After the Pakistan Super League, Pakistan are playing five ODIs in England against England, which would be ideal practice before the World Cup," Wasim added.
Akram was full of praise for all-rounder Faheem Ashraf and expects him to perform consistently now.
"The one Pakistan cricketer I want to see perform is Faheem Ashraf, because he's been the all-rounder Pakistan are looking for. He just has to improve his bowling a bit, and be consistent with the bat. He can be a match-winner. Shadab Khan (leg-spinner) was the Man of the Match against South Africa on Wednesday night. I also want Rizwan to perform because that can put pressure on Sarfraz Ahmed. Babar Azam, who was the best batsman on the difficult South Africa tour, looks confident and is in good nick. However, to prevent over-confidence, he must forget about what he did in South Africa," he opined.
Akram expressed satisfaction to see the growth of Pakistan Super League in the last few years.
"It's the fourth season of PSL now, and it has been the most-watched league in Pakistan TV history - 70% of Pakistanis watched it last year. Everyone supports one team or the other. Everything is very well-organised," he concluded.