Beaten, but not disgraced

The competitive flair of the match kept the interest alive until the last moments when Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh carried India to the target.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

WHY was Sandeep Patil so apprehensive about the match and Sachin Tendulkar's rousing form? He lost no opportunity to point out the huge difference between the teams and made every effort to tell the world that Kenya had no chance of winning. "Let's be realistic. I won't like to make any statement, which I would find difficult to digest later. I know the strength of Kenya and I know the strength of India. Let us get the facts right and accept that Kenya has a long way to go," said the Kenya coach on the eve of the match.

Sourav Ganguly came up with a captain's knock to pull India out of trouble. He finished with an unbeaten 107. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

For veteran left-arm spinner Aasif Karim it was another lesson in cricket education. Bowling to Tendulkar was an honour, he pointed out, and there was no harm in admitting that the team had little chance. But in the end it turned out to be a misplaced notion because India had to earn every run.

The journey to the Super Sixes stage was quite eventful for Kenya. "It was a dream for us and it will take some time for the reality to sink in. It obviously was a memorable moment to have qualified to play against India in the Super Sixes. The fact that we could give India the scare is a very encouraging development for Kenyan cricket," said Patil.

The competitive flair of the match kept the interest alive until the last moments when Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh carried India to the target. But it was quite different at one stage when India lost three early wickets and Kenya had every reason to rejoice. If the Kenyans failed to make it, the reason was not far to seek — it was sheer inexperience that saw Kenya let the opposition off.

There was much to learn for Kenya in a match, which saw Ganguly compile a neat century, his 21st in one-day internationals. It was the right time for the India captain to strike form even though his century against Namibia had indicated his hard work in trying to get his rhythm back. "It was obviously very nice to get this century. I liked it all the more because it came under pressure. There definitely was a scare for us when we lost those early wickets but I must compliment Yuvraj for producing a quality innings once again. I'm convinced he's the future of Indian cricket," said Ganguly.

It looked a dull match but it had its moments of excitement. The innings by Kennedy Obuya, also known as Kennedy Otieno, was a big factor in making India struggle for victory. His half-century was the propelling force for Kenya to give itself a good chance to embarrass India. True, Kennedy Obuya enjoyed a huge slice of luck, when the Indians dropped him twice and on two occasions misjudged catches. But credit must go to the Kenyan opener for not giving up. He smashed two sixes to entertain the sparse crowd which backed the Kenyans to pull off an upset.

"I knew it was always going to be hard but the boys fought well. What I liked the most was the desire to fight even when they knew it was an uphill task. If only we had one more experienced bowler to maintain the pressure it might have been a different story. But I'm happy with the manner in which the team played on such a big stage," remarked Patil, who had praise for Kennedy Obuya.

The Indian fielding was an eye-sore as catches were dropped and runs conceded with ease. "Our fielding was very poor. I never expected it to suffer so much even when we were playing a weak side. It wasn't complacency I'm sure but just one of those days when things didn't work out well for some players," conceded Ganguly.

The worst fielding display came from Dinesh Mongia, who was picked ahead of V. V. S. Laxman only because he was a better fielder. Mongia had a horrific time on the field but then he was not alone. The overall fielding standard of India in this match was an embarrassment for an international team.

Ganguly, of course, had little complaints on the personal front. His century was crafted in a clinical style with an eye on the target always keeping him focussed. "I enjoyed my knock. I was able to time the ball to my satisfaction and then it felt good to play a match-winning innings. I was always confident of scoring runs and was waiting for the time. I'm glad that I could bat at a crucial time for the team," said Ganguly.

Kenya did well to set a target of 226 and did even better to reduce India to 24 for three, though the third victim, Mohammad Kaif, was unfortunate to have been ruled out. But the dismissals of the openers, Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar, had been planned. It was only Ganguly's sensible knock that saved the day for India, not to forget the efforts of Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj.

For Yuvraj it was one more occasion to showcase his potential. His temperament stood out as he joined his captain in crafting a hard-earned win. His own effort was aimed at extending his fine form and the innings firmly established the left-hander in the middle-order.

Ganguly had described Kenya as a "competitive side" and it lived up to the expectations. "Such matches help boost the confidence of the players. I feel sad when some people (read commentators) ridicule our participation with some harsh remarks," said Patil in obvious reference to the crass comments by Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had described Kenya as a "candy" for all the teams.

"I would like to present a candy to him," said Patil, clearly unhappy at his team being rubbished.

Well, Kenya was beaten but certainly not disgraced even as it embarrassed some of the critics with a reasonably decent performance at Newlands.

The scores:

Kenya: K. Obuya b Harbhajan 79; R. Shah (run out) 34; S. Tikolo c Zaheer b Harbhajan 3; T. Odoyo lbw b Mongia 32; M. Odumbe (not out) 34; P. Ongondo c Tendulkar b Srinath 8; C. Obuya c Mongia b Srinath 8; M. Suji (not out) 11. Extras (lb-8, b-4, w-4) 16. Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 225.

Fall of wickets: 1-75, 2-81, 3-157, 4-165, 5-191, 6-206.

India bowling: Zaheer 10-1-53-0, Srinath 10-0-43-2, Nehra 10-2-30-0, Harbhajan 10-0-41-2, Mongia 8-0-37-1, Yuvraj 2-0-9-0.

India: V. Sehwag c Tikolo b Odoyo 3; S. Tendulkar c T. Suji b M. Suji 5; S. Ganguly (not out) 107; M. Kaif lbw b Odoyo 5; R. Dravid c and b Obuya 32; Yuvraj (not out) 58. Extras (lb-5, nb-3, w-8) 16. Total (for four wkts. in 47.5 overs) 226.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-11, 3-24, 4-108.

Kenya bowling: M. Suji 10-3-27-1, T. Odoyo 7-0-27-2, P. Ongondo 5-0-31-0, T. Suji 7-0-25-0, C. Obuya 9.5-2-50-1, M. Odumbe 3-0-25-0, S. Tikolo 6-0-36-0.