As the high-octane ICC Champions Trophy clash against Pakistan draws closer, veteran India all-rounder Irfan Pathan has picked India as the favourites besides counting pacer Mohammed Shami as the key to the prospects of the men-in-blue in the June 1-18 tournament in England and Wales. Irfan, who was part of the victorious India side which lifted the Champions Trophy in 2013, said the mantra of success in English conditions is to hit the seam well, which he felt the in-form Indian pacers, led by Mohammed Shami, are capable of.
"What's important in England is to hit the seam well. If you can keep bowling in the right areas and hit the seam, I think that's the best way to go for the bowlers," the 32-year-old told IANS.
"With the kind of form our frontline pacers - Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav - are in at the moment, I am sure India can do really well in the Champions Trophy. With the amount of experience they have in the home season and the Indian Premier League (IPL), I think they are up for the challenge in England."
Irfan, who was India's frontline pacer with his swing bowling in the 2004 tour of Pakistan, said he was impressed by the young duo of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah in One-day Internationals besides hailing Shami for having one of the best seam positions in world cricket.
"I am really impressed with Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah's bowling in international cricket, especially in one-dayers... as well as, for that matter, Shami and Umesh."
"Shami has been the bowler who can deliver with both the old and the new ball. He has got the most beautiful seam position I have ever seen in international cricket. He will be key to India's success in the Champions Trophy," he said.
Asked if head-to-head records count during high-tension encounters, such as those against Pakistan, the Baroda all-rounder said: "Such advantages or disadvantages get an edge only to a certain extent. But it all boils down to how you tackle the situation during the match."
"Even during the 2013 Champions Trophy, the Indian team was a far better side and this time around, too, we have a complete team which is much better than the Pakistanis at the moment.
"I am pretty confident that India will go in as the favourites and come out with flying colours," he added.
India are placed in Group B along with Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and will start their campaign on June 4 against their arch-rivals at Edgbaston.
The last time India and Pakistan were engaged in a 50-over game was during the ICC World Cup in 2015. They, however, faced off in the shortest version of the game during last year's ICC World T20 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. India won both matches.
India will play their next two matches at The Oval, against the Lankans on June 8 and then South Africa on June 11.
Group A comprises New Zealand, Australia, England and Bangladesh. The top two sides of each group will proceed to the semi-finals.