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Favourites may not lift Champions: Lara

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 14:29 IST
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West Indies captain Brian Lara believes that the upcoming Champions Trophy one-day tournament in India could throw up a surprise winner.

"Australia have to be favourites because they are ranked number one. South Africa are number two, but the winners may be some other team in these testing conditions," Lara told reporters here on Sunday.

"India also have a good chance as they are playing at home and are a force to reckon with. They can beat any team on their day."

The West Indies were the surprise champions in England in the previous tournament in 2004, but have slipped in rankings since then. They now have to play qualifying matches before advancing to the main draw.

They play their first game against Zimbabwe on October 8 at Ahmedabad. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are other sides in the qualifying rounds. The top two make it to the main draw.

Australia, India, England, South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan have been given direct entry into the main draw based on their rankings in April this year.

"It is a nice feeling to land here as defending champions," said Lara, who is in his third stint as captain.

"But it's a bit unfortunate that we have to play three qualifying matches. We should have moved forward after the winning the trophy."

Lara, 179 short of becoming the fifth batsman to complete 10,000 runs in one-day internationals, said he was not thinking of any personal milestone in this tournament.

"The aim is to play consistent, competitive cricket. I just want the West Indies to be on top again," said the fifth-highest scorer.

Indians Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya are other batsmen in the 10,000-club.

The West Indies recently qualified for a triangular series final in Kuala Lumpur before losing to Australia, but Lara did not think inconsistency was the main reason for defeat.

"We played good cricket against India in May," Lara said, referring to his team's 4-1 win in the one-day series at home.

"After that, we did not play much cricket. Most of the guys were coming off holidays but we still qualified for the final (at Kuala Lumpur). Credit goes to the players. We will get better as the season goes on.

"We are confident going into this tournament and you will see a better performance. It is a fresh tournament and I expect my team to defend the trophy. We have the ability and the guys know their responsibilities."

Lara also said the West Indies would not be able to experiment here as much as they did at Kuala Lumpur.

"Experiments may not continue. We will field our best team, best combination," said Lara.

Lara, a top-order batsman, came at number nine against India in the last league match at Kuala Lumpur but his team had made sure of the final before that game.

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