India looks to redeem itself vs Kenya

Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2001, 22:39 [IST]
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Paarl (South Africa): Having suffered two successive defeats, India would be looking to redeem it self with a big win against Kenya in the last league match of the triangular One-day series in Paarl on Wednesday.Though the biggest of margins is no compensation for their shock 70-run loss to the Kenyans, a victory would ensure a place in the final and that is the topmost thing in the mind of the Indians right now.

After that disaster in Port Elizabeth, the Indians had requested for batting reinforcements in the form of V V S Laxman and the stylish batsman, who had stayed back due to an injury and was to join only for the Test series, has already arrived in the country on Monday.

Laxman is a certainty for Wednesday's game, as the Indians, who had been guilty of experimenting in the previous game against Kenya, are leaving nothing to chance this time. On the other hand, Kenya also realise that this is a big opportunity for it and if it is able to knock India out of the tournament, it would give a big boost to its international image.

India has two victories in the tournament so far while Kenya has one. However, if Kenya manages to win on Wednesday, it will make it to the final on account of having defeated India twice in three league encounters. South Africa has already ensured its place in the final, which is to be played on Friday. India would like to take a cue from the South Africans who inflicted a crushing 208- run defeat on Kenya on Monday.

A similar victory for India would not help it forget the memories of the past two matches but would also put it in the right frame of mind to take on the South Africans in the final. Indications were that Laxman would be asked to bat at number five after Rahul Dravid and not at his customary number three where Virender Sehwag is likely to be sent in.

The idea is to let the top three - captain Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar and Sehwag - gather quick runs and in case of early loss of wickets, Dravid can always be expected to play the role of a sheet anchor. The inclusion of Laxman in the side means either Shiv Sunder Das or Jacob Martin - both of who have failed to make a big impression in the opportunities provided to them - would have sit out. India would certainly like to bat first and make a big score.

The key really would be Ganguly and Tendulkar who are now the most successful opening pair in the world. In fact, these two have been doing their job quite consistently but the later order batsmen have failed to capitalise on the sound foundations laid by them. It is the last ten overs that have been troubling India and it would be looking to set the record straight in Paarl.

Laxman is capable of big hitting and Yuvraj Singh needs to prove his worthiness for a place in the national side. India would no doubt go with the same attack that played in the last game against South Africa - the pace attack of Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar to be complemented by the spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. A lot would depend on how the medium-pacers fare with the new ball.

Whenever they err in line and length in the initial overs, the spinners come under that much more pressure and in order to do the containing job too, their sting is lost. Srinath and Agarkar would have to ensure that they do not give away too many runs in the first 10 overs so that Kumble and Harbhajan can effectively weave their magic. Sehwag has been doing the job of fifth bowler very successfully and he has reduced Ganguly's headache to a considerable extent.

Despite the shock loss in Port Elizabeth, the Indians still start favourites in Wednesday's match and should not have much problems in winning it. As Ganguly had said after that defeat, "We know this is not going to happen again." It is good that the Indians retain their confidence but Kenya too would be boosted by the return of its captain Maurice Odumbe who would be back in action after serving a two-match suspension.

The Kenyans are upset that aspersions are being cast over their win over India and are very keen to prove that it was no fluke. "This really upsets us," said Steve Tikolo, who led the side in the absence of Odumbe.

"It implies that every time we do well, ICC would be looking to scrutinise that game," he said referring to reports that ICC's anti-corruption unit (ACU) had secured the tapes of the Port Elizabeth match to ascertain whether there had been any wrong-doing in it.

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