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Karim soaking up Kenya success

Asif Karim admitted on Tuesday his own extraordinary World Cup return against reigning champions Australia had stunned him.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2003 20:05 IST
PTI

Kenya veteran Asif Karim admitted on Tuesday his own extraordinary World Cup return against reigning champions Australia had stunned him.

"I've been playing cricket for my country for 20 years," the 39-year-old left-arm spinner explained. "I came out of retirement for this World Cup and what's happened has been fantastic."

Kenya face India in a day-night semi-final here under at Kingsmead on Thursday.

Although they were beaten by five wickets against Australia in Saturday's 'dead' Super Six match at Kingsmead, Karim had remarkable figures of 8-6-2-3 at one stage.

"I'm just starting to come to terms with what happened," said Karim, an insurance broker, who retired from international cricket after the last World Cup in 1999.

"When you are playing against the world champions, to have a spell like that must be the envy of many others bowlers in the world that day."

Looking ahead, he admitted a Kenyan victory against India would be a huge upset.

"For us to win we'll have to play a few notches up and they'll have to play a few notches down," said Karim, who was Kenya's skipper when they first beat India in a one-day international at Gwalior in 1998.

"Our aim when we got here was just to get to the Super Six and maybe upset one Test nation."

Instead, the East Africans have beaten three - Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Karim said the rise of Kenya, the first non-Test playing nation to reach the last four of a World Cup, had transformed attitudes to cricket in a country where athletics and soccer have traditionally held sway.

"What is amazing is that everybody in Kenya has got behind cricket. Before the World Cup there was only a small group of people who were interested. But now bus conductors, bus drivers, maids, street cleaners and office people are following the team.

"Everybody wants to know how the boys in green are getting on."

Kenya's advance to the semi-finals has been controversial with the team gaining maximum points for a win after New Zealand forfeited their February 21 group match in Nairobi on security grounds.

"The rules are not made by us," Karim insisted. "When the New Zealand game was forfeited it was not the ideal situation."

But Karim, who played one Davis Cup tennis match for Kenya against Egypt in 1988, is determined to look forward, not back.

"I don't think we'll realise what we're in for until we get on the field on Thursday. There'll be a full house, one billion people in India watching the match, everyone in Kenya and millions around the world.

"But when the Kenyan Cricket Association contacted me in January and said they wanted me for the variation in bowling and my experience I decided if I am called I must go and serve my country."