Cape Town - With less than a week to go until the first ball of the ICC Champions Trophy is bowled, former West Indies captain Brian Lara has tipped England to lift the trophy as he helped The Prince of Wales launch the tournament.
The tournament kicks off on June 1 in England and Wales, with fixtures taking place at Edgbaston, The Cardiff Wales Stadium and The Oval, before the final on June 18.
Alongside fellow cricket legends Jonathan Trott, Kumar Sangakkara and Azhar Mahmood, Prince Charles and Lara met children from eight Lambeth schools, with each school representing a nation participating in the ICC Champions Trophy.
Receiving the trophy from tournament director Steve Elworthy, Prince Charles officially presented it to David Richardson, chief executive of the ICC, to launch the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
And while disappointed not to be watching the West Indies in action at this year’s tournament, Lara – who led his country to ICC Champions Trophy glory in 2004 – insists England have what it takes to go all the way on home soil.
“The ICC Champions Trophy was always one of the high points of my career, especially playing in the final at The Oval in 2004,” said Lara.
“I understand that this year’s tournament is going to be bigger and better than ever, so it’s going to be an awesome experience for the fans and us former cricketers to see who is going to lift the trophy.
“The Champions Trophy is so special to me. During my reign as captain, or even just as a West Indies cricketer, we didn’t have many trophies to celebrate, but I clearly remember what happened at The Oval on a dim September evening.
“It’s one of the most unbelievable experiences playing at this tournament. We came off the back of some really bad Test cricket, so to still be able to boast about it 13 years later is great.
“I think in these conditions, England will be my firm favourites. After losing out to the West Indies in the Twenty20 World Cup, you look at the team now and they have some exciting players.
“England, in the past, would have maybe an Ian Botham or a [Andrew] Flintoff, but now you can look at the entire team and it’s very one-day cricket oriented.
“Today, you look at the England team and you’ve got players playing in the IPL, and players who are astonishing with both the bat and ball.”
England will kick off the ICC Champions Trophy against Bangladesh at The Oval, hoping to make amends for their 2013 campaign in which they lost out to India in the final by five runs.
Former England batsman Trott was a member of that squad who just missed out on success at Edgbaston, but, like Lara, is confident the 2017 team can right the wrongs of years gone by.
“It would have been so nice to have won the final in 2013, I still have a few nightmares about that, but hopefully this team can go all the way,” he said.
“I remember there being such a great vibe in 2013. The English crowds are so loud and can be intimidating.
“England have got the home advantage and they can use that, but there are some good teams around the world in great form, so it’s going to be a really interesting competition.
“England have been playing some really good cricket both home and away, but I don’t necessarily think there’s much pressure on them.
“There’s perhaps a feeling that it’s about time to win a one-day tournament, which would be very nice, and they have been going well in the T20 competition as well. They’ll be going into the Champions Trophy with some good form and some good momentum.”