Muralitharan picks India, England as World Cup favourites

Muttiah Muralitharan
Former Sri Lanka cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan interacts with young trainees at an academy in Hyderabad.

Hyderabad: With the ICC World Cup is just three months away, Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan feels hosts England and India, under Virat Kohli, are favourites to win the World Cup.

Given the English conditions favouring the fast bowlers, he said England, with quality bowling and playing at their own backyard, are tough to beat. India, with quality seamers in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, too are strong contenders.

“The conditions will favour fast bowlers in England. If the weather is dry, it will also help spinners. So they can also play a crucial role in the World Cup,” added the bowling coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad.

When asked to pick the top Indian spinner from the current crop of bowlers, he said, “I can’t pick one bowler. There are many spinners now and different players are playing different formats. Both (Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav) are bowling very well with the white ball. (Ravichandran) Ashwin is also doing well with the red ball. So it is hard to pick the top bowler.”

He lamented that the standards of the Sri Lankan cricket has hit the lowest point but said he can’t comment as he was not working with the Lankan cricket. “It is sad that we are not doing well in the last three of four years. But I can’t comment about it as I am not working with them. I don’t know what the actual reason is. But I hope they will come good in next two or three years.”

IPL big boost for Indian cricket
The 46-year-old former spinner felt that the impact of the Indian Premier League on the Indian cricket is huge. “IPL is a huge success and it helped Indian cricket greatly. With the best of the world coming and playing here and sharing nets, it helped Indian cricket,” he opined.

Muralitharan, who has the record of taking 800 Test wickets, said the Sunrisers team this year is strong and the return of David Warner will make it formidable. “I think it is going to be interesting this season. It is always improving. IPL has always been hit as new players are coming in every year. Sunrisers are much stronger this year with the return of David Warner. Last time too, we did well and played finals. We got (Jonny) Bairstow who is a good player. We covered all our departments. We have so many combinations to try according to the conditions.”

He had a lot of praise for Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan, who made his mark in the T20 format in no time. “Rashid is a unique bowler. He is one of the best in the shorter format. That is why we took him for big money. I am not at all surprised by his success. We know he can deliver.”