Kenya would not have asked for more. A four-nation championship to begin a new season must be considered as heaven-sent. A country that had made its international debut in the World Cup 1996 must be welcoming this LG Cup Meet that ensures a worthy exposure to its ambitious cricketers at the start of a new season.
South Africa, India and Zimbabwe are the other nations in this tournament starting in Nairobi on September 25. The teams will play each other and the top two teams at the end of the league would play the final on Oct 3. A reserve day (Oct 4) has also been arranged for the final. Kenya is the baby of this Meet. India, South Africa and Zimbabwe are in Nairobi to prove a point or two to the cricket world. The three visiting teams are longing to create greater reputation for themselves. Thus the home team would certainly hope for a severe test to its talented but inexperienced players.
Nothing teaches a beginner more valuable lessons than a series of encounters with giants. So the Kenyan cricketers are fortunate and the Kenyan spectators, for the first time, would be treated to a grand feast. Kenya's cricketing fraternity can be proud of having earned this four-nation championship at the right moment. South Africa approaches cricket with scientific methods. India can lend an artistic Asian aura. Cricket is a sport that provides an ideal platform for Zimbabwe players to exhibit their spectacular athleticism. The Kenyan team with a bunch of natural talent is thus blessed with a variety of rivals to make a near-perfect assessment of its players. South Africa's dream of winning the World Cup was shattered by "rain-rules" in the 1992 editon. A "tied" semi-final match against Australia drove South Africa out of the World Cup 99. Till that match, South Africa was the hot favourite to take home the Cup.
So South Africa has come to Nairobi with a smudged image. Interestingly enough, in the World Cup 99 preliminaries, Zimbabwe had shocked South Africa to earn the "giant-killer" tag. South Africa has an old score to settle. So is India who had lost to both South Africa and Zimbabwe in the World Cup 99 preliminaries. The India-South Africa, India-Zimbabwe and South Africa-Zimbabwe matches in Nairobi are bound to provide heady stuff. India had begun this season on a disappointing note. It lost to Sri Lanka and Australia in the AIWA Cup, Sri Lanka.
Then in Singapore, India, after beating Zimbabwe, was outplayed by the West Indies in the final. However, India, under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly, got a 2-1 verdict against the West Indies in Toronto for the DMC Cup. That title triumph must have given the needed confidence to India. Ajay Jadeja who missed the Toronto trip due to injury is now back in the team. He is the skipper. Millions of cricket followers, especially in India, are undergoing anxious moments, as the greatest performer of modern cricket-Sachin Tendulkar-will be missing yet another tournament this season.
The new captain left for Australia midway through the Singapore Meet to attend to his nagging back problem. He is now resting in Mumbai, his hometown. Tendulkar's absence has given an opportunity to Karnataka star Vijay Bharadwaj a prolific scorer in domestic cricket. This 24-year-old middle order batsman had amassed 1290 runs in the 1998-99 National championship for the Ranji trophy. Mohammad Kaif, a successful performer in the domestic circuit is another new face in this India team.