"West Indies now have exciting cricketers. They did well in the T20 format. Now they have to stretch it for 50 overs." AFP

The legendary Brian Lara holds forth on why the hosts can win their very first World Cup trophy this time, and how West Indies are still capable of springing a surprise.

Excerpts from an interview...

Does it hurt that Brian Lara could not win a single World Cup title?

It hurts when a World Cup approaches. Now that I have crossed 50, I cannot win now. But we have to accept that in our time, West Indies was not the strongest team. We tried, we gave our best shot. We won the Champions Trophy even, but could not win the World Cup.

West Indies were one-day pioneers at one time, with Clive Lloyd's team winning in 1975 and ..

West Indies were at their peak at that time. They made it to the final in 1983 too. That itself tells how strong our team was in that era. They had the best bowling attack in the world which won match after match, backed up by a solid batting department.

What is the most important quality a team needs to win the World Cup?

Consistency. One team has to win match after match and in the bargain, gain confidence as the tournament progresses. Only batting or only bowling cannot win you a match. It has to be a balanced team. It is almost a 50-day tournament, so consistency will play a major part. No team can afford to lose tempo. That's why I mentioned consistency.

Do you think West Indies can become champions this time?

I hope so. Why not? West Indies now have exciting cricketers. They did well in the T20 format. Now they have to stretch it for 50 overs. Our cricketers are in top form. They have to keep their cool and should try to concentrate for consistency. They should target to reach the semifinals first. Then they take fresh guard.

Any other internal obstacles that West Indies have to overcome?

Just keep cool and everyone should try to gel with others, because they have not played together as a team for a long time. I would suggest after landing in England, everyone should try to acclimatize with the weather.

How do you rate the Indian team?

Nobody will be surprised if India becomes the champions. They have been doing well in different conditions. India have a very balanced team. It will not be an upset if they win the Cup. No doubt India are very strong.

Do you think England start as favourites?

I don't know whether they are favourites or not but they are definitely one of the contenders. Any host nation will try to become champion in any sport. Naturally, England will also try to give their best shot and take away the Cup. We have to remember that although the tournament started in 1975, they have never won a World Cup title. They will try this time like never before and to be honest, they have got a very good side. When I look back, England have also done well in World Cups but it's just that they couldn't win it. This time England will try seriously to cross the boundary. If you go through the team, even their critics will agree that they have got fantastic cricketers in all the departments. They have really organized themselves recently.

What about Australia?

The return of Warner and Smith will definitely strengthen their team. In our time Australia really dominated in World Cup, but the current team is not as strong as in 1999 or 2003. But don't forget, they are the defending champions. They will definitely try to rise to the occasion.