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Probable champs!

It is now time to stop belittling Kenya and to recognise them for what they are. Hard working, committed, disciplined, and above all, semi-finalists of the World Cup 2003.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2003 00:01 IST

It is now time to stop belittling Kenya and to recognise them for what they are. Hard working, committed, disciplined, and above all, semi-finalists of the World Cup 2003.

The game against Australia was billed as a no hope affair for them and at one stage it certainly looked that way when Brett Lee took a hat-trick and had them going down the river without a paddle. However, true to their style, they fought themselves out of a corner and transferred the pressure onto the probable champions.

After their innings, they were once again placed in an embarrassing position when the Aussies came into the attack mode and got to 50 in just six overs. But again, the Kenyans held tight and came back into the game via their spinner Asif Karim who is old enough to be the father of a few players on either side!

It is not a well-known fact that this tournament is costing the Kenyan cricket establishment more than they will get out of it. The players will share in a huge amount of cash once they convert it into local currency, but the actual Board will not receive a cent from the ICC because Kenya is only an affiliate country.

Test nations get to share the huge pie. But Kenya is basically asked to just come along and play in the tournament. The team does have a sponsor back home, but unfortunately the beer clashes with the official sponsor.

The strategy of the Kenyans to leave out certain key players for the Aussie clash was a wise one. In defeat they will feel they could have done better and it will surely give them confidence going into the semi-final against India.

The support for Kenya was unbelievable. They themselves probably could not believe it. What they now need to do is to make sure they harness the support and make it their biggest ally. No team likes to be under pressure before they even walk onto the park.

The Aussie juggernaut came away from the Kenyan match with a win but will not have felt too comfortable with their performance. One consolation could be that Matthew Hayden looked the part if only fleetingly. Brett Lee is in great form and coupled with Bichel and McGrath, the attack looks to have the edge over everybody.

The real burning issue is whether Kenya can beat India. Yes, they can -- we all know that. It has happened before, but somehow they will need players like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly to self-destruct also.

First Published: Mar 18, 2003 00:01 IST