Indian pros show Kenya no mercy, enter final
India ruthlessly crushed Kenya's hopes of extending their magical campaign with a 91-run win.Updated: Mar 21, 2003 02:47 IST
First, the miracle. The rain did not keep its expected appointment with Kingsmead. Despite being drenched by the gallon in overnight rain, the ground was dry enough for the match to start right on time. And by the time India got into their stride, the stadium was immersed in saffron, white and green.
Now for the story of a hard-boiled, professional, even ruthless performance from the Indians that took them into the final of the 2003 World Cup and a possible tryst with destiny. You could argue that a score of 270 in 50 overs, that too against a team like Kenya, does not reflect the dominance of bat over ball.
You could say that the Indians were too slow off the blocks --- they should have kept in mind the vagaries of the weather and the application of the dreaded Duckworth-Lewis system in case it rained during the Kenyan innings. You could point out a thousand odd things, which the Indian batsmen might or might not have done right.
But in the end, you cannot argue with the result and the complete one-sidedness of a contest that saw India beat Kenya.
What lies ahead is the ultimate prize. In two days time, India lock horns with Australia in an effort to break the aura of invincibility surrounding the world champions.
Coming back to this match, it was gloomy and gray throughout and the wicket so slow that the batsmen found it very difficult to get to the pitch of the ball. Caution had to be the catchword as India began their essay. And Sachin Tendulkar was caution personified. Later, even the flamboyant Sourav Ganguly was restrained, at least for a while. But in the end, the floodgates opened and the bowlers took a walloping from the Indian skipper.
The Kenyan opening attack of Martin Suji and Thomas Odoyo got the ball to stop and jump, and life out there in the middle was not all that easy. Despite the limitations imposed upon them by these difficult conditions, Virender Sehwag made every possible attempt to clobber the bowling while Tendulkar batted with uncharacteristic serenity. He was content to play a waiting game and in no mood to overpower the bowlers with his usual timing and sheer power. One of the greatest strengths of Tendulkar in this Cup has been his ability to read and understand the conditions to perfection and adjust his strokeplay accordingly. He did just that here too.
Though there were a few occasions when the slowness of the wicket fooled him, he looked all set for his hundred when he lost his wicket. Not the first time he's missed out on the big one in this event.
Ganguly did not miss out on the opportunity. He takes his time to adjust to the wicket and is a slow starter but once set, he is perhaps the most destructive player in one-day cricket. There must be no better player of the slog overs. He has this tremendous ability to hit hard, pick up the gaps and what gives his striking bat that extra bite is his ability to clear the ground and hit huge sixes. That is what the Indian skipper did in the last five overs of the innings, something that took the Indian score from a decent one to an almost match-winning one.
Mohammed Kaif, by far the best runner between the wickets in the side, was sacrificed at the altar of quick scoring and Yuvraj Singh hit one stunning six over widish mid-wicket to complete a highly professional and sharply-focussed Indian display.
The Kenyans, as they have done throughout the tournament, did not try to overreach themselves and were splendid in the field. The man who disappointed was Asif Karim. The left arm spinner failed to come anywhere near his magical spell against Australia. If anything, Karim looked tense and instead of using the air and varying his line and length, he bowled flat and short and was punished.
When the Kenyans came out to bat, the Indian pacers bowled with explosive energy to send their top order packing. It was as good as over then though the formalities took a while. There was a lot of tension in the air --- the clouds never budged but once 25 overs were through, there was relief written all over the faces of the Indians and the organisers.
First Published: Mar 20, 2003 17:33 IST