By giving the Indians a bit of a fright on Friday night, the Kenyans illustrated the dangers presented by a side that has nothing to lose since it has already done better than expected. The Kenyans put up a very good score against an Indian attack that has been pretty stingy in this tournament. They fielded like demons and seemed pretty relaxed since they knew nothing is expected from them at this level in any case.
The Indians were a little below par yesterday. Virender Sehwag played yet another of his airy-fairy shots at the start of the innings. I'm starting to get a little worried about the progress of this young man. Sehwag might soon reach a point in his career from where his temperament will decide whether it will be a downhill slide or otherwise. You have to plan your innings at this level and cannot take too many liberties against quality opening attacks. An innings needs some TLC and thought, and a slam-bang attitude might work on some days, but not often enough. Sehwag had looked great on the flat pitches of India against the West Indies, and I had at that point wondered whether he has it in him to make the cut against quality attacks on fast, bouncy pitches. I am not saying that success at the highest level is beyond Sehwag; I just feel that some more thought, some more maturity and a lot more application is needed if he has to be counted among the best.
The Indians also lost Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Kaif soon after, and the captain played a very good hand to ensure that this team was spared the blushes. This win ensures Sourav Ganguly and his men a place in the semi-finals, and I'm sure all of India must be thrilled. Sehwag can learn something from the way Ganguly planned his innings, and that is what will be expected from him at some stage of the tournament.
I have always felt that Ganguly was adequate against most teams in the world, but to be convinced about him I would like to see him play a knock of 107 not out against the Australian attack when the ball is whistling past his shoulder. He was cool and collected when his team mucked up against Kenya at Newlands. Will he be the same in a similar situation against Australia if it happens on March 23 at The Wanderers. Those are the moments that separate good batsmen from great ones, and I would like to give my full assessment on Ganguly's greatness after a little more time, perhaps till the end of the tournament.
When this Indian batting line-up was pitted against Australia only Tendulkar looked like taking the attack to the world champions. The rest were on the hop as soon as they saw Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee steaming in. That's why I repeat, Tendulkar will either have to play well or inspire one of his mates to do the job if they have to beat the Australians. India have to get used to the fact that if they want to lift the Cup, they will have to beat the Australians at some stage.
The Australians look unbeatable, and only a case of over-confidence can cause their downfall. They look aware of that pitfall right now, but it remains to be seen whether complacency will get the better of them at some stage.
Their next battle, however, is against Sri Lanka. The neighbours have had some good encounters in the past, and this one is too close to call. The availability of Sanath Jayasuriya is a crucial factor in this game, as also Tendulkar's face-off with the in-form Chaminda Vaas. The left-hand bowler seemed out of sorts against Australia, but the Indian experts here tell me he has had successes against the Indian master in the past.