London: Former Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara on Tuesday said that defending champions India were capable of retaining the Champions Trophy title as they were a better balanced unit with "real firepower in their fast bowling".
"This year we have four Asian teams in the tournament and clearly India is current the pack-leaders in the region. It won in 2013 and it has a team capable of winning this year too," Sangakkara wrote in his column for the ICC website.
"In fact, the team is arguably stronger, better balanced with real firepower in its fast bowling. It’s spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are exceptional in ODI cricket, and I am sure that Virat Kohli is going to be desperate to bounce back after a disappointing IPL," he added.
The wicket keeper-batsman, however, felt that India's selection was a "little conservative".
"The only slight concern I have for India is that their selection was perhaps a little conservative, but the team is still very strong," he said.
The 39-year-old picked India as one of his favourite teams to make the semifinals of the upcoming tournament, starting on June 1.
"I think picking finalists is too tough, but my favourites for the semi-finals would be Australia, England, India and South Africa," said Sangakkara, who won the Champions Trophy 2002 and World Twenty20 2014 with Sri Lanka.
Sangakkara, who quit international cricket two years ago, having scored a total of 28,016 international runs across all formats, said the competition was going to be very tough with 4 -5 teams having the potential of making it to the final.
"There was a time, not so long ago, when one or two countries dominated the format, but in the past few years, we have seen several teams develop tremendously, and now we have four to five teams who are very evenly matched, all with realistic ambitions of winning major tournaments."
Heaping praise on the hosts, Sangakkara said that the English team has been a real revelation.
"England ODI team's progress in the past two years has been a revelation. It used to trail behind other teams in terms of its strategy and approach, but now it is one of the most progressive teams.
"England is playing an aggressive and exciting brand of cricket and it has some world-class players driving that,” he said....