Melbourne: Former Australian batsman Mike Hussey has favoured India in the high-octane Champions Trophy final against Pakistan at The Oval on Sunday, while adding that the Men in Green, who have thrown up so many upsets so far in the tournament, should not be discounted.
Title-holders India will be firm favourites against a Pakistan side, who were the lowest ranked of all the teams taking part in a tournament featuring the world's top-eight ODI sides.
"Pakistan has surprised everyone in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 after being ranked eighth coming into the tournament, and was well and truly beaten in its first match against India. Since that match, every game has virtually been a knock-out game for it. It has played as though it has nothing to lose, with a freedom to express its skills, which is commendable considering the situation it found itself in," Hussey wrote in a column for the International Cricket Council (ICC).
It was only on June 4 that India launched their title defence with a 124-run rout of Pakistan at Edgbaston.
Yet even by their own 'unpredictable' standards, the Sarfraz Ahmed-led side's transformation since that hammering against the Men in Blue has been remarkable and they knocked tournament favourites England out of the competition with a comprehensive eight-wicket win in Cardiff on Wednesday.
"Pakistan doesn't have an impressive record against India in ICC events. That said, the ICC Champions Trophy is the only event where it has defeated India, not once but twice - in 2004 at Southampton and in 2009 at Centurion," wrote Hussey.
"Although the two sides are locked at two-all on a head to head in the ICC Champions Trophy, I am sure Pakistan will get additional inspiration and motivation from its past successes in this event and will aim to extend its run come Sunday," he added.
Mr. Cricket further pointed that going into the match, one concern for Team India is that there hasn't been much work for the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja to do with the bat and Pakistan could exploit this, if it gets early wickets in the final.
In the press conference after the semi-final against Bangladesh, Virat Kohli had talked about his team maintaining its composure and controlling its emotions in big games and Hussey feels the Indian skipper has enormous confidence in his side and if they play any team on skill alone, keeping control of its emotions, then he (Kohli) would back his side to beat anyone in the world.
"One of the keys to winning big games is each player being able to disregard all the outside distractions and focus on his role in the team. There will be many distractions when India lines up against Pakistan in the final, with a manic crowd likely to be out of control in the lead up and on match day as the hype for this match will be huge," said Hussey.
" India is in a great place and must be favoured to retain the ICC Champions Trophy but no-one should discount Pakistan. It is a mercurial team and this tournament has thrown up so many upsets so far," he added....