Blessed with oodles of talent

THE glint in his eyes was unmistakable. The man was soaking in every moment of the World Cup, enjoying his cricket, breathing life into the Kenyan displays.

Collins Obuya is not versatile yet. However, he did slip in the occasional googly and the flipper, weapons which he has to hone a lot more. He's still learning, and given time could well emerge a champion leg-spinner; the ingredients are certainly there. — Pic. AP-

It was his stage, the cricketing world was watching, and he had the ball in his hands. Collins Obuya was going to make this opportunity count. For the love of the game.

Here was a leg-spinner of genuine talent, duelling it out with the best in the business and holding his own. Obuya was very much the Kenyan lion that roared in Southern Africa.

A tall man, Obuya got his deliveries to spin from leg to off, and when he settled into a rhythm and a line, there was fizz in his bowling, his height enabling him to achieve that additional bounce, so vital for a leggie.

Even when the batsmen went after him, Obuya, a little smile never quite deserting his visage, attacked, giving the ball air, and prepared to buy his wickets. A quality that should serve him in a long, serpentine journey, that a cricketer's career surely is.

He's not versatile yet. However, he did slip in the occasional googly and the flipper, weapons which he has to hone a lot more. He's still learning, and given time could well emerge a champion leg-spinner; the ingredients are certainly there.

It was Obuya who waylaid the Lankans, a win that took the Kenyans into the Super Six stage. The Kenyans danced all evening at the Nairobi Gymkhana, so too did the man who made it happen - Collins of the cricket loving Obuya brothers.

His figures against the islanders, who know a thing or two about handling spinners, were sensational too — 10-0-24-5 — a match-winning spell in a game the Kenyans had to win to pursue their dreams.

It was also a duel where Obuya was spot on, spinning his leg-breaks big, and catching the Lankans, chasing a modest 211, by surprise. In bright sunshine, Obuya was buzzing, even as the Lankans slid down the slippery slope.

Notably, four of his five victims — Hashan Tillekeratne, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumara Sangakkara — were batsmen, while the fifth, Chaminda Vaas, is no mug with the willow either.

This magic spell was the genesis of Kenya's fine run in the tournament. In a line-up of average bowlers, captain Steve Tikolo had stumbled on a match-winner. Collins Obuya had arrived.

He impressed in the Super Six clash against the Indians at Durban, too, hitting the right length straightaway and spinning the ball away from the middle and off. The Indians were certainly under pressure that night, after pacemen Martin Suji and Thomas Odoyo had made the early inroads.

Obuya even frustrated Rahul Dravid into offering a caught and bowled chance that he quickly snapped up, but was unsettled by the left-handed duo of Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh. It is here that the wrong 'un would come to Obuya's aid.

A brilliant loose-limbed fielder and a useful lower-order batsman, he has the makings of a fine cricketer. This Collins might be here to stay... and roar.

S. Dinakar