| Kenya captain Steve Tikolo (extreme right) during training with teammates in Bloemfontein Tuesday. (AP/PTI)
Bloemfontein: Kenya coach Sandeep Patil has blasted his team’s critics and insisted his unheralded side will prove they are worth their place in the World Cup Super Sixes.
Kenya face Zimbabwe here Wednesday knowing that a win will virtually assure them of a semi-final spot and that would deliver a hammer blow to those who believe their presence in the second phase has made a mockery of the tournament. “A lot of people seem unhappy that we’re still involved,” said Patil in a reference to the way Kenya were gifted four points when New Zealand forfeited their February 21 match in Nairobi.
“It’s not just down to luck. We’ve played some good cricket. By reaching the Super Six, which was one of our goals, we’ve taken half a step forward. But another win would be one more half step and the icing on the cake.
“Every game is a big game for us,” said Patil, a member of India’s 1983 World Cup winning team. He added that for Kenya just reaching this stage was a triumph in itself. “Going into this tournament we’d played just 18 one-day Internationals in four years.”
Kenya have never beaten Zimbabwe in 14 ODIs, their fellow Africans winning 12 with two no-results. But Patil is not too concerned, having watched his men produce one of the shocks of the tournament — beating Sri Lanka in the group phase. “Our record against anyone is not that good,” he cheerfully admitted. “But we are capable of causing these upsets, so why not another one'”
Henry Olonga took six for 28 in Zimbabwe’s nine-wicket win when the teams last met in Bulawayo in December, but Olonga hasn’t played since Zimbabwe’s opening group match against Namibia on February 10 in Harare, a match where he and Andy Flower wore black armbands and issued a statement lamenting the “death of democracy” in Zimbabwe.
That December 15 match was also Alistair Campbell’s last for zimbabwe. But the former captain turned television commentator won a dramatic recall following the skull fracture sustained by Mark Vermeulen which ruled him out of the rest of the tournament.
Campbell, whose kit has still to arrive, said Zimbabwe were in for a tough game. “The Kenyans have got no world-beaters, but their bowlers bowl an irritating length, there are not too many balls to hit. And their batsmen are capable of posting a score,” he said. Flower is expected to play but Whittall’s hamstring problem will be assessed again.
Travis Friend, the man who inadvertently ended Vermeulen’s World Cup at the nets here and was a substitute fielder in the six-wicket defeat by New Zealand, could well start as Zimbabwe are a bowler short after losing Brian Murphy to a calf injury. His place in the squad has gone to Stuart Matsikenyeri.
Zimbabwe (from): Heath Streak (captain), Andy Blignaut, Dion Ebrahim, Sean Ervine, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Douglas Hondo, Douglas Marillier, Henry Olonga, Tatenda Taibu, Alistair Campbell, Guy Whittall, Craig Wishart, Stuart Matsikenyeri.
Kenya: Steve Tikolo (captain), Maurice Odumbe, Asif Karim, Alpesh Vadher, Ravindu Shah, Hitesh Modi, Brijal Patel, Martin Suji, Tony Suji, Thomas Odoyo, Kennedy Otieno, Joseph Angara, Peter Ongondo, David Obuya, Collins Obuya.
Umpires: Srinivas Venkatraghavan (India) and Aleem Dar (Pakistan).
Third umpire: Billy Bowden (NZ).
Match Referee: Wasim Raja (Pakistan).