Rediff Logo
ICC Champions Trophy
Home > Cricket > News Interviews | Venues | Standings | Schedule | Match Reports | Gallery | History      Feedback

September 18, 2002
1100 IST

Pool A:
Aus | Ban | NZ

Pool B:
Ind | Eng | Zim

Pool C:
Ken | SA | WI

Pool D:
Ned | Pak | SL

 Search the Internet

E-Mail this report to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on  HP Laserjets

Kaif grows from reluctant boy to crisis man

Long after his colleagues have packed up for the day, India's Mohammad Kaif is still practising in Kanpur's Green Park stadium.

The thin frame looks bulkier because of a thigh pad and an arm guard. He goes backwards in defence of ball after ball, coaxing the tired local youngsters to bowl for just a little while longer.

To them, he is not India's newest cricket hero Mohammad Kaif but simply "Kaifi".

The 21-year-old Kaif, already recognised as India's crisis man after two consecutive match-winning knocks, remembers each boy who has bowled to him at the nets for seven years in Kanpur.

"I owe my success to everyone who has helped me," Kaif says.

Mohammed Kaif Down-to-earth, modest and a devout Muslim, Kaif can be dogged and devastating on the pitch.

"He was perfect," Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak said after Kaif's maiden one-day century against them on Saturday in the Champions Trophy.

Kaif had walked in with India reeling on 87 for five in the 14th over but by the time he finished with an unbeaten 111 they were 12 short of 300.

"I knew I had to hang in there and repair the damage. I knew there was pressure but I wasn't worried, Kaif said.

"This is international cricket, I know it isn't easy."


Kaif, whose first love is still kite-flying, once considered cricket a difficult game he would rather avoid.

His father Mohammad Tarif was a former Railways cricketer in India's premier domestic league.

Brothers Saif and Arif went to a sports college in Lucknow but little Kaif stayed home in Kydganj, a lower middle-class locality in Allahabad, refusing to lift a bat.

A change of heart came during a talent search at the city's Madan Mohan Malviya Stadium, where Kaif had gone hoping for a free cold drink.

Soon, he was Jamuna Christian College's young star and about to leave home for the Green Park hostel in Kanpur to hone his skills along with a dozen others.

His schedule was simple -- play, pray and sometimes study. His main form of entertainment was flying kites.

"I saw this kid for so many years, I've practically seen him grow up," says Ved Prakash, a vendor at the Green Park stadium.

"When everyone else had gone in, Kaif would still keep practising. Fielding, bowling, batting whatever. He just wanted to stay on the field and work harder than the rest."

The strict regimen has made him one of the best fielders in India and the fittest member of the team in terms of body fat.


When Kaif won his first India cap in a Test match against South Africa at Bangalore in early 2000, it was an emotional moment.

"Wearing the India colours was a dream come true, it was the culmination of everything I had worked for," he says.

But after his 12 and 23 in that match, Kaif had to wait for a while before stepping on the field in an India shirt again.

Sri Lanka 2001 proved uneventful and it was only after his one-day debut earlier this year against England in Kanpur that Kaif finally cemented his place in the team.

"The two years when I was out of the team were tough but I had faith in god," Kaif says.

Batting at number seven, he now averages more than 56 in one-dayers and each of his big knocks has been invaluable.

The right-hander is not a destroyer of attacks but an accumulator of runs.

Kaif, who has modelled himself on Mohammad Azharuddin, relies on his swiftness between the wickets and opens his shoulders only when necessary.

"That's the way I play," he says. "I keep the scoreboard ticking over and wait for the bad balls."

Kaif's most memorable knock was an unbeaten 87 in a triangular final against England at Lord's in July.

"The Lord's innings was the best," he says. "But," he hastens to add, "I couldn't have done it alone."

No wonder one of Kaif's former coaches once remarked: "Modesty is his middle name."

(C) 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similiar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters Sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


Astrology | Auctions | Auto | Contests | Destinations | E-cards | Food | Health | Home & Decor | Jobs/Intl.Jobs | Lifestyle | Matrimonial
Money | Movies | Net Guide | Product Watch | Romance | Tech.Edu | Technology | Teenstation | Women
News | Cricket | Sports | NewsLinks
Shopping | Books | Music
Personal Homepages | Free Email | Free Messenger | Chat
  © 2002 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.