Former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming believes that Virat Kohli-led India will have an edge over arch-rivals Pakistan when the two neighbours face off in their ICC Champions Trophy 2017 opener in Birmingham on Sunday. Fleming said India, with quality and experienced players in their arsenal, are the favourites against an "inconsistent" Pakistan. "India have quality players with experience, whereas Pakistan are probably on the way up. Pakistan are a very talented side, but they are unpredictable," Fleming said.
"Pakistan are a little inconsistent given the young nature of their side and that's where India have an edge. India are more settled and played together a lot. India are one of the favourites. There are four teams in particular which stand out for me. They are England, South Africa, Australia and India. They are definitely in the top bracket," said former left-handed batsman.
Heaping praise on the Indian players, Fleming said: "I watched these players recently in the Indian Premier League. Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya in particular are outstanding players. They have also got great experience in senior players like Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. You have got players all the way through, even Rohit Sharma."
According to the Kiwi legend, defending champions India have a more experience side this time around as compared to 2013 when they lifted the trophy.
Fleming, who is the coach of Rising Pune Supergiant in IPL and has worked closely with Ajinkya Rahane, termed the Indian middle order batsman a "technically sound".
"Ajinkya was mentally and physically tired after the summer. He played a lot of cricket for India during the home series and after he finished the home series, he was fatigued and we saw some signs in the last 3-4 games in IPL. But he was starting to come back to form," he said.
"He will be a key part of the side. In England, without knowing the overhead conditions, weather its going to swing or seam, he is a type of player who you can base your innings around and he is not far away from good form."
On his home country's chances in the Champions Trophy, Fleming said one of their top players would have to deliver in every game.
"They are just snapping at the heals of the top four and it is going to take performances from Kane Williamson or Ross Taylor and they can easily qualify into that semi-final and then it would be just two games."
Asked to predict the two finalists, Fleming said it would be "England versus South Africa".
(With PTI inputs)