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India vs Kenya: mismatch of gigantic proportions

The biggest impediment to India winning this World Cup will be India themselves. If they believe they can win they are the one team with the all round strength to win the final.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2003 02:36 IST
Greg Chappell
Greg Chappell

The biggest impediment to India winning this World Cup will be India themselves. If they believe they can win they are the one team with the all round strength to win the final. Provided they get past Kenya first.

This will be one of those scary games. The one you know you should win but you are scared you might lose. A bit like the short putts in golf!

India has little to gain but much to lose. For Kenya it is all upside. Even if they lose they cannot lose. The pressure will be on India so a good start will be essential to settle the nerves.

No one expected Kenya to get this far. Not least of all the Kenyan players. To their credit they have played with a joy that is refreshing and this has been the reason behind their marvellous Cup performance. Some of the more fancied teams will wish they had shown the same commitment to a simple game plan.

What has surprised even the most ardent Kenyan supporter has been the energy and commitment shown in the field by these cricketing Davids. They knew they would be outgunned with bat and ball by the Goliaths in the tournament so they set out to even the contest by, literally, throwing themselves at everything in the field.

On top of that they have shown considerable discipline with bat and ball to bring them within one game of playing in a World Cup final. Even in their wildest dreams they would not have expected this.

Along the way they have savoured every moment. Apart from their matches against some of the top players in the world one of the highlights was training with the Australian squad. Who knows how much they learnt from the experience of batting and bowling alongside the likes of Ponting, Hayden, Gilchrist Lee and McGrath but they enjoyed every minute of rubbing shoulders with the world champions.

Every member of the Kenyan squad plays cricket for a past time, much like the majority of players who were present at the first World Cup in 1975. The game has moved a long way in the past 28 years with many of the participants playing cricket full time and earning large sums from the game and commercial endorsements.

What the Kenyan players have reminded us of is that it is still, after all, just a game that is meant to be played for enjoyment. They have played with an attitude and a spirit that has endeared them to all cricket supporters.

What they have achieved, and the way they have gone about doing it, has embarrassed some of the high profile competitors and teams who appeared to take themselves too seriously and are now watching from the sidelines.

Can they beat India? I do not think so, and realistically they should not even get close, for the gulf between the two sides on talent alone is extensive. Add to this the big game experience of the Indian squad and you have a mismatch of gigantic proportions.

The challenge for India is not to get too far ahead of themselves and start planning for the final before they have jumped the last hurdle. Many a sportsman has come undone by thinking of the next shot, game or round before completing the one at hand.

It is important that all of the Indian players make a pact with each other that each will take responsibility for making sure the team wins. Too often in this situation players wait for someone else to win the game and before long the team is in trouble.

Sri Lanka appeared to make just this mistake against Kenya earlier in the tournament. Good sides do not make this sort of mistake. They make the commitment to the process required to win then go out and execute the plan.

India can set the foundation for a winning recipe for the final if they do this against Kenya for this is exactly the type of commitment that will be required no matter who they meet in the final.

Bowlers will need to bowl line and length, batsmen will need to build partnerships and the fielders will have to run the ball down as if each run saved could be the difference in the game. Because it might! South Africa can tell you how important one run can be from painful experience. Twice!

The mistake that can easily be made is that bowlers expect to run up and take wickets with every ball bowled; batsmen expect bad balls to be bowled every ball and fielders think they can relax and rest up for the big game ahead. Wrong! Nobody can afford to relax or the game could be gone before you know it.

The Australian team nearly made this very mistake against Sri Lanka in the 1975 World Cup at the Oval. Having made a score in excess of 300 we expected to walk away with the game. After all we had Lillee and Thomson to lead the attack.

On a beautiful batting wicket Sri Lanka made an excellent start and with Siddharth Wettimuny, Anura Tennekoon and Duleep Mendis driving beautifully an upset was on the cards.

Ian Chappell had stern words to the fast bowlers and suggested he would like to see if the Sri Lankans could play as well off the back foot as they had to the half volleys they had been served up so far.

Thomson soon snapped into gear and an embarrassing situation was averted.

India will have some uneasy moments before the semi final gets underway at Kingsmead on Thursday, but once the game starts they need to be switched on to execute the basics of the game in a ruthless, professional way. If they do, they will be too strong for the proud and magnificent part timers from Kenya.

First Published: Mar 18, 2003 20:05 IST