Durban, March 15: If there’s a home away from home, for Team India, it’s this picture postcard-pretty port city. From the names, malls and even Zee TV, there’s a distinct Indianness which can’t be missed.
In fact, Durbanites of Indian origin are convinced the desi flavour inspired Sourav Ganguly and Co. to thrash England in that crucial league game last month. This time, a win over Kenya, in the March 20 semifinals, is taken for granted.
Given the reception accorded by dozens of fans, when the team arrived at the Holiday Inn Elangeni this afternoon, it seemed the World Cup had already been won. Indeed, the locals’ fervour made some wonder: If this is the mood here, what’s it back in India'
It’s a thought which hasn’t escaped Sourav and, in days to come, the pressure will become pronounced. Today, amid a deafening Daler Mehndi number and the serving of samosas and chicken tikkas — all part of the welcoming ritual — he made a quiet entry and quickly headed for his tenth floor room.
“Actually, I’m very tired,” Sourav told The Telegraph, as he settled to watch the Sri Lanka-Zimbabwe match. While he didn’t admit as much, yesterday’s game in Centurion (versus New Zealand) took a lot out of him — specially emotionally.
Sourav wanted to teach New Zealand a lesson, on neutral ground, and was successful. Yet, he didn’t talk about that match, except to praise Mohammed Kaif (68 not out) for a “brilliant innings”. He added: “Kaif wasn’t getting big scores, but he’s such a solid cricketer....”
Looking ahead, Sourav said: “My views on Kenya haven’t changed.... Steve Tikolo’s team is dangerous and we shouldn’t be caught napping.... They may have gained four points from New Zealand’s decision to not play in Nairobi but, otherwise, they’ve won games.”
Breaking off to watch Maravan Atapattu’s 100th run, he continued: “Remember, barring the Australia match we lost, the only time we were under pressure was against Kenya (Cape Town). Cricket has taught me never to take anything for granted and I’m not assuming anything. To repeat, good cricket alone will earn us a ticket to the final.”
The captain’s message, then, is: Don’t sneer at Kenya’s round-of-four entry. They’ve earned it.
With the team management deciding on a well-deserved break, most players preferred to ensconse themselves in their rooms — watching either the Sri Lanka-Zimbabwe game or the Kingsmead fixture featuring Australia and Kenya. Kaif, though, preferred to step out for a while.
In the midst of obliging autograph-seekers, as he was preparing to leave, Kaif confessed to feeling “much better” after the superb effort. “It’s not that I wasn’t confident in the earlier matches, bas runs nahin bante the.... Kuch runs karne ke baad accha to lagna hi hai....”
“Dekhiye, koshish hamesha rahti hai.... At times, everything works; on other occasions, nothing clicks...,” Kaif said.