Gibson picks England as favourites

West Indies players Darren Bravo and Kemar Roach at the West Indies conditioning camp WICB Media Photo/Philip Spooner

West Indies coach Ottis Gibson has picked out hosts England as the team to beat in this year's Champions Trophy because of their familiarity with conditions in the early summer.

"England would be the best team to play in England in these conditions at this time of the year" Gibson said. The tournament will be played between June 6 and 23, and James Anderson and Stuart Broad have found form in the on-going Test series against New Zealand. "To my mind, they are the favourites and for the rest of the seven teams, it is who gets settled and used to the conditions quickly enough.

"And that's what our aim is - to get there and get ourselves acclimatised as quickly as possible," Gibson said. "We know that we have a lot of guys who have played in England before in those conditions but it is all about gelling as soon as we can and making sure that when the main event comes on June 7, we are ready for that."

West Indies, who had won the Champions Trophy the last time it was held in England in 2004, square off against Pakistan in their first match at The Oval.

Gibson's prediction and wariness of English conditions were not unfounded. At almost the same time last year when West Indies toured England, their sole victory was in a one-day game against Middlesex. Though Marlon Samuels racked up a century and three fifties, England won the three Test series 2-0 and then wrapped up the three-ODI series 2-0 and lone T20 as well.

West Indies, however, rounded off 2012 by becoming the T20 world champions, beating the hosts Sri Lanka in the final. "Winning major events gives the confidence" Gibson said. "There will be some pressure of course, but the fact that we have won the last major event means that we get confidence from it also, and there is a lot of belief among the players."

Gibson said the conditions might also impact the playing eleven. "It might be that we think when we are playing subcontinental teams that play spin very well, we might want to play an extra fast bowler or whatever the case may be. We don't know that yet."

West Indies, who had their first training session in Cardiff on Monday, targeted repeating their 2004 victory despite being in a group featuring India, South Africa and Pakistan. "Getting out of the group is our first challenge and getting to the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and then our aim is to be playing on the 23rd, in the finals. I think we have a pretty good record in finals."