WC 2003 - Indians cant help but take a peak into the day
Published: Saturday, February 8, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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Durban: Try as they might to avoid it, Indians can't help having one eye on the World Cup final.Although Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh and coach John Wright have warned that Kenya, its unexpected semi-final opponent, cannot be taken lightly in Thursday's day-night encounter here at Kingsmead, both have unintentionally made it clear they expect to be involved in Sunday's climax at the Wanderers.On Tuesday, former New Zealand captain Wright, when asked about star batsman Sachin Tendulkar's chances of becoming man-of-the-tournament, said, "He's still got two games to play. They are very important innings." And on Monday, Harbhajan had said, "I feel I've still got a big performance in this tournament and hopefully it will happen in the next two games."India has not appeared in a World Cup final since it won the title for the first and only time in 1983 and time will tell if Harbhajan and Wright's words come back to haunt them.Wright was at pains to point out his team was taking Kenya, the first non Test nation ever to reach a World Cup semi-final, seriously even though India has already beaten it by six wickets in a Super Six game.Wright said he expected India to go in with the same team that has got it this far even though many feel it will not need seven recognised batsmen against the East Africans' attack."We don't play a seventh batsman for insurance. We just feel it's right for the balance of team. The last time we played Kenya, Dinesh Mongia bowled well," explained Wright.Veteran India paceman Javagal Srinath has been rejuvenated by the presence of youthful left-armers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, the trio taking 43 wickets between them at this World Cup.Added to that India's top order have also fired at crucial times with Sachin Tendulkar leading the way with a record 586 runs in the tournament.Few expected Kenya to come this far, having beaten three Test nations - 1996 champion Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - on the way.In the Obuya brothers, leg spinner Collins and wicket-keeper Kennedy, Kenya has two players who have made a name for themselves at this tournament.Kenya, coached by former Indian World Cup winner Sandeep Patil, has several players who know what it takes to beat India in a One-day International.The Africans have won two of their 11 One-dayers against India."For us to win we'll have to play a few notches up and they'll have to play a few notches down," admitted Asif Karim, who was Kenya's skipper when it first beat India at Gwalior in 1998."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."Relatives of the Kenyan team who wanted to be present in Durban for the match, failed to secure visas and were set to stay at home. But, wherever they are, all Kenyan fans can feel very proud of Steve Tikolo's boys in green.