By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India batting great Sunil Gavaskar believes England are a transformed one-day international side since their shock exit from the 2015 World Cup and rates them as favourites to win their maiden crown on home soil in July.
Eoin Morgan's side, whose quest for a first 50-overs title begins against South Africa at The Oval on May 30, top the world rankings enter the tournament as the one of the most consistent teams in the format.
"England are the favourites. Simply because of the way they are playing cricket, the complete turnaround in their cricketing attitude and approach after their disastrous 2015 World Cup," Gavaskar told Reuters in an interview.
"England have got a very good team, they have got lots of confidence. You have seen them in all the recent matches and they have been playing outstanding cricket."
Morgan's men have played a fearless brand of cricket in the recent years and since the start of 2018 have come out on top in bilateral ODI series against World Cup holders Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India.
Gavaskar believes having home advantage could also be telling after Australia won as hosts in 2015 and India did the same four years earlier.
"If you go by what has happened in the last couple of World Cups, the host team has won," he added.
"But, of course, in cricket anything can happen. While England start the favourites, there are other teams which are also playing some good cricket."
Gavaskar was speaking after pledging to sponsor 34 paediatric heart surgeries for economically deprived children at the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani International Centre for Child Heart Care at the satellite city of Navi Mumbai.
The semi-rural setting was a far cry from the glamorous environs of Gavaskar's normal workplace as a TV media pundit and rather than former cricketers, he was surrounded by medical professionals who treat children for free.
His study of the game from the commentary box has convinced him that holders Australia, with Steve Smith and David Warner back in the fold after their ball-tampering bans, and a resurgent West Indies are other title contenders.
Virat Kohli's India side will also post a big challenge, the 69-year-old felt.
"I think these are the four teams that can really stand out," added former India captain and opening batsman Gavaskar, who once held the record for most test runs and centuries in the longest format.
Gavaskar said a hot English summer could add to the excitement of the World Cup as the pitches would be drier and make shot-making easier for the batsmen.
The format for the May 30-July 14 tournament has also seen a change from the previous years with all 10 teams playing each other before the top four advance to the semi-finals.
"This should be a very, very interesting tournament and I think the format is the best you can have because you are playing every team unlike in two groups," said Gavaskar, who was part of the Indian team that beat the mighty West Indies to win the 1983 World Cup.
"You can have a bogey team with whom you lose in bilateral matches but they could be in another group and you might never play them.
"So you can win without having played your bogey team (in the past) while this format, where each team plays each other, I think is the best."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Nick Mulvenney)