Birmingham, Jun 23 : Putting behind the turbulent phase of the past few weeks, the Indian Cricket team is standing on the cusp of winning their second straight world title as they take on hosts England in the summit showdown of the ICC Champions Trophy today.
The reigning World Cup winners roared into the title clash of what will be the last edition of the tournament, winning all their four matches with consummate ease under the astute leadership of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
In a contest where the exuberance of youth will lock horns with the fineness of tradition, the 'Three Lions' on the other hand will be gunning for their first major 50-over international title in their own lair.
Joint winners with Sri Lanka in the 2002 Champions Trophy in Colombo, India is the defending World Cup champions and the No. 1 team on the latest ICC rankings.
But reputation and numbers will have little significance in a match, where skill and mental toughness face an acid test at the Edgbagston.
England, who have lost in the finals of both the World Cup and the Champions Trophy over the past two decades, will aim to exploit home conditions against a new breed of carefree Indian cricketers who have taken the tournament by storm.
While India have breezed through to the final, England have shown their die-hard character by lifting themselves several notches in key matches.
The hosts thrashed South Africa by seven wickets in the tournament's first semifinal at The Oval on Wednesday but more than the margin of victory, the team's ability to bowl out a decent batting line-up in less than 39 overs would have given the English bowlers a big shot in the arm.
India's batting has been in ominous form. Except for the tournament opener against South Africa on June 6, India have never batted beyond No. 4.
England captain Alastair Cook reckons that India will start as favourites in the final.
"India are a very strong side. They are unbeaten and playing very good cricket. They are batting well at the top of the order and getting early wickets. They will go in as favourites," skipper Cook told the mediapersons ahead of Sunday's high-profile final against India.
They're unbeaten aren't they, and played some very good cricket. We're happy with that. But our record against India last time we played them in England is a good record. So we can certainly take a lot from that", he said.
England have a poor record in ODI tournaments and Cook said he was aware of this piece of history. England have not won a major ODI title, losing three World Cup finals and the 2004 Champions Trophy final against the West Indies at home.
"I keep getting asked this question in every press conference but yes, I am aware of our record and very keen to set it right this time," he said.
Cook is leading England for the first time in an ICC event and was extremely keen to win the last edition of
Champions Trophy."It's a big final for us. The boys are raring to go and ready to play. It's going to be a one-off day and we will give it all," said the 28-year-old Essex batsman.
Cook is clearly banking on his fast bowlers and want the troika of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn to do the job against the Indians."They have the skills and can get the early wickets to put pressure on the middle-order. We have our plans," he said.
The English camp is taking a lot of heart from the fact that their home record against the Indians have been very good having beaten them 5-0 when the two teams played bilateral series on English soil during the summer of 2011.
"We have a good record at home but it's going to be a one-off day and the better team will win. We have played each other quite often in the last one and half years and there are no hidden secrets," Cook said, adding, "winning the toss can be an advantage but can mean nothing at the end of the day."