Cape Town: It’s one thing to make the World Cup’s Super Six, quite another to actually progress from there. First-timers Kenya are aware of that, though they do have the weight of (10) carried-over points behind them.
Yet, if they are eyeing a repeat of Gwalior (1998) or Port Elizabeth (2001), they could be in for much despair: Sourav Ganguly’s Team India is currently on such a high that a potentially bitter lesson awaits Steve Tikolo and his men.
If the Indians do have a worry, it’s the toss. Of course, Sourav didn’t harp on that too much Thursday, on the eve of the first Super Six game, but Newlands is known to be partial towards seam and swing when the floodlights are on.
In fact, ‘concern’ over the toss apart, Sourav’s worry (in the lead-up) had everything to do with the sole specialist spinner’s slot. Harbhajan Singh... Anil Kumble... Harbhajan... Kumble... Harbhajan...
Rarely has the captain been in such a dilemma: Should he drop the seasoned Kumble after one failure (against Pakistan) or give him another chance' Reaching for the answer — bringing back Harbhajan, according to The Telegraph’s sources — caused a bigger headache than the Kenyans’ potential to create a flutter.
That Harbhajan will be back was “almost certain” by late Wednesday. However, some 16 hours later, Kumble’s chances of retaining his berth improved dramatically. By late Thursday, it was back to ‘advantage’ Harbhajan.
“The captain has gone through an agonising time... In principle, he is opposed to dropping somebody after just one match. At the same time, many with influence kept suggesting that Harbhajan be brought back,” observed a well-placed source.
Eventually, Sourav appears to have gone with the (internal) majority view.
The Kenyans, on the other hand, don’t have to tackle such a sensitive issue. According to coach Sandeep Patil, they will be picking from XIII — out of contention are former captain Aasif Karim and Alpesh Vadher. “Light rain is forecast in the morning and, so, we will wait and see what the conditions really are,” Patil, looking to build on the Sri Lanka-upset, added.
That stunning win remains Kenya’s No.1 achievement in this edition, but their batting has left much to be desired. A top score of 217 for seven, that too versus Bangladesh, can’t be anybody’s idea of inspiration. Worse, after qualifying for the Super Six, the Kenyans got thrashed by the West Indies.
Whether they are worth just the 104 scraped against the West Indies will soon be known. Only, the appetite of the Jawagal Srinaths has been whetted.
For Team India, Friday offers an excellent opportunity of adding to the (eight) carried-over points and an increase by four will take off much of the pressure in the more demandi- ng games — versus Sri Lanka (March 10) and New Zealand (March 14).
“Right now, we are taking it one at a time, insisted Sourav,” who should be looking at a handsome score to boost confidence before the home stretch of this World Cup. The cynosure, though, will be the peerless Sachin Tendulkar, who is comfortably placed for the Man of the Tournament award.
Virender Sehwag, who hurt his right index finger while attempting a high catch Wednesday, is “fully fit”. The time for him to fire is long overdue.
INDIA (likely): Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammed Kaif, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.
KENYA (from): Steve Tikolo (captain), Maurice Odumbe, Ravindu Shah, Hitesh Modi, Brijal Patel, Martin Suji, Tony Suji, Thomas Odoyo, Kennedy Otieno, Joseph Angara, Peter Ongondo, David Obuya, Collins Obuya.
Umpires: Peter Willey (Eng), Daryl Harper (Aus). Match Referee: Wasim Raja (Pak). Match starts: 6.00 pm (IST).