March 19, 2003

New frontier for Kenya's old hands

DURBAN, South Africa, March 18 AFP - Kenya may have won just two matches against India, their opponents in Thursday's World Cup semi-final here, but the entire fifteen-man squad knows what the experience is like.

Ten of the 11 players who took part in Kenya's first-ever win over India at the Roop Singh stadium in Gwalior on May 28, 1998 are still representing their country at the World Cup.

The remaining five were on hand when Kenya won a second time against India at St George's Park at Port Elizabeth on October 17, 2001.

That India have won nine of the 11 matches between the two will matter little when the semi-final is played under the Kingsmead lights on Thursday.

In fact, Kenya's both wins came under floodlights when they batted first, put up a substantial score and bowled out India for less than 200.

Sachin Tendulkar, India's man of the moment, knows what it feels to lose against a non-Test playing nation. He, vice-captain Rahul Dravid and senior pro Anil Kumble were the only ones to feature in both defeats.

Veteran left-arm spinner Aasif Karim was the Kenyan captain who won the toss in Gwalior five years back and saw his side score 265-5 with Ravindu Shah making 70, Maurice Odumbe 83 and Hitesh Modi 51.

India managed only 196 in reply as Odumbe completed a fine all-round display with 3-14 in 25 balls and current captain Steve Tikolo chipped in with 3-29.

Dravid was the main scorer for India with 33 while Tendulkar made 18 before he was dismissed by Martin Suji.

Three years later, Tikolo was the captain who elected to bat at Port Elizabeth and Kenya hammered 6-246 following an opening stand of 121 between Shah and Kennedy Otieno.

Thomas Odoyo followed the openers with the third half-century of the innings, a blazing 51 off 52 balls with six boundaries and a six.

India were shot out under the lights for a meagre 176 after Tendulkar was bowled for three by seamer Joseph Angara, who finished with 3-30 and Odoyo ran through the tail with 3-41.

No wonder, Kenya's current coach and former India player, Sandeep Patil, believes Sourav Ganguly's India will be foolish to take victory for granted on Thursday.

If the Super Sixes clash between the two sides earlier this month is any indication, a close match is in the offing.

India, chasing Kenya's modest 6-225, were reduced to 3-24 under the Newlands lights at Cape Town before Ganguly hit a match-winning 107 and Yuvraj Singh made 58 to steer their team home.

It was at Kingsmead on Saturday night that 39-year-old Karim gave the mighty Australians a scare with figures at one stage reading an incredible 8-6-2-3.

Entire Kenya will be hoping for an encore on Thursday.