The West Indies had a glorious run in the World Cup until they lost in 1983 final. Thereafter it was a downward slide, and going into the 1996 tournament they were no one’s favorites. In this tournament, they had already lost to India. Kenya were making their first appearance in the event if one discounts the fact that their players - along with those from Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia - had turned out for East Africa 21 years earlier.
They were now an entity in their own right, having been runners-up to the United Arab Emirates in the ICC Trophy for the associate member-countries. Still, they were innocents in the highly competitive upper tier of world cricket. Skipper Maurice Odumbe was just happy to be on the same field as the West Indians. "It's an honor to play them", he said before the match.
The early life in the wicket suited the West Indies pacemen, as they went about skittling the Kenyans. Lanky off-spinner Roger Harper also got into the act and Kenya were reduced to 81 for six. Their best batsmen Steve Tikolo (29) and Maurice Odumbe (6) were back in the pavilion. It was only a face-saving 44-run stand between left-handed Hitesh Modi and 18-year-old Thomas Odoyo that gave some respectability to the score. But they were all out for a paltry 166 in 49.3 overs. It was not a score that was liable to test the Caribbean line-up.
The West Indians, however, can be an unpredictable lot. They have often slumped inexplicably, and here they began to flounder. If Kenya had made a bad start, the West Indies innings never took off. Indeed, it got progressively worse. With nothing to lose, the Kenyans applied pressure. Richie Richardson went for 5, the great Brian Lara for 8 - both consumed by Rajab Ali. The Kenyans were jubilant, the West Indies looked pathetic.
Shivnaraine Chanderpaul tried to graft, but Keith Arthurton, who had a nightmarish tournament, contrived to get himself run out for a duck. It was 35 for four. Odumbe came on with his off-breaks, and tore through the middle-order. At 78 for seven and only the four fast bowlers left, it was a hopeless situation.
The Kenyans did not let go either. The inevitable happened as Rajab Ali returned to claim last man Cameron Cuffy, his third successive three-wicket haul (discounting the abandoned match at Patna). The West Indies crashed to 93 all out. They had reached the nadir, having been knocked over for less only once. Odumbe was man-of-the-match.
For the Kenyans it was their first triumph in the big league and, as events proved later, helped earn them One-Day International status. A victory margin of 73 runs is huge in One-Day cricket; in a low-scoring match it is gigantic.
Without taking anything away from the enthusiastic Kenyans, it was the indiscipline of the West Indians that brought this humiliation upon them. They conceded as many as 37 extras, including 14 wides and 13 no balls. Any side doling out such largesse is bound to get knocked over in a tight game. Here, their batsmen ensured that there would not even be a close finish.
This reverse marked the beginning of the end of Richie Richardson’s stint as captain, and also his international career. This is despite the fact that henceforth in the tournament the side picked itself up from the dumps and reached the semi-finals, where they nearly upstaged the Australians. Such is the price you pay for losing to the minnows.
Kenya: 166 all out (49.3 overs), West Indies: 93 all out (35.2 overs) (CWC 1996)Published 10 May 2019, 12:39 IST