THE DAY THE WHEN THE KENYAN MINNOWS STUNNED THE MIGHTY WINDIES. On February 29th 1996 The WILLS CRICKET WORLD CUP was underway and in full force, the fixture that day was in Pune as the Star-Studded West Indies Team faced, The East African Rookies from Kenya, for many this game was a foregone conclusion, Some people even went as far as saying that this game would be a good practice match for the west indies team, Kenya batted first and scored 166 all out with a contribution of 29 the top score by Steve Tikolo showing his flashes of brilliance. The Windies started their innings in an assured manner up until the first wicket fell, when Rajab Ali Clean bowled the Windies Captain Richie Richardson, today on the 24th anniversary of that memorable match I catch up with the man who played a pivotal role in that victory, Rajab Ali.
Tell Me what was the feeling like around the team before going into the game?
We started off with a bus ride from Bombay to Pune most of the journey we were all very quiet, we got to the Hotel blue Diamond, The team was very exhausted and we did not go for practice or go see the ground where we were going to play at, It was nerve-wracking experience knowing we were going to play our heroes the mighty West Indies, we all admired the west indies team, That evening we got word that the pitch had a grass top and the ICC officials were not happy with the pitch, we had a team meeting and the whole team was in great spirits to play, the team was announced. and we went to bed early waiting for the morning to start.
Did You have any Game plans to bowl against the West Indies?
Honestly not at all, before the world cup we had a coach who came in from England Peter Lever, to help us out he was the one who had told us a little about how the windies play, so that is all we knew about them.
During the morning of the game was there a lot of fans who came to watch the game?
Yes, there were a lot of fans, and we had decent support from Kenyan students who were studying there.
Was Kenya a fan favorite team?
Yes because we were always mingling with fans, signing autographs and taking pictures, we were the humble team from Kenya and had a decent following.
What was your reaction when Lara came to the crease and hit that glorious 4?
We had never played them, only watched them, I just had to keep my line tight, the first ball I bowled to Lara, went flying to the boundary, I kept my cool and my captain Maurice Odumbe walked up to me and asked me “do you know who you are bowling to?, just don’t let him drive the ball, the pitch favoured my swing bowling and it worked, I kept it short of length he went to drive but edged the ball for a catch to our keeper Tariq Iqbal.
What was your feeling when you got Lara’s scalp a wicket that potentially swung the pendulum in Kenya’s favour?
I didn’t realize what had happened it was such a surreal experience, I only realized it after the game had ended, I was told I had just gotten out the best batsman in the world, even if you go back and get a chance to watch the ball by ball commentary, Kiriti Azad states “he doesn’t realize whose wicket he has just taken” it was an amazing feeling.
At the time of the World cup did the Kenya team have full professionals or semi-professionals?
None of us were professionals we all worked for our living and had taken leave from work, we had a mixture of salesmen, Insurance brokers to a Shop steward.
What was your profession?
I was a shop steward working in a hardware shop.
How did it feel seeing the sign KENYA JUU(KENYA TOP) in crowds that day?
It was quite emotional seeing those signs and hearing our National Anthem and Kenyan songs our local students were singing and using drums, I was lucky to hear all this as I was fielding at the boundary.
This group of Kenyan lads didn’t just beat the west indies, but they shocked the world and they will remain forever in cricket folklore as the giant slayers, from Cricktalk20 we would like to thank the entire team involved that day because you taught us nothing is impossible KENYA JUU.
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