Mohammad Kaif, the middle-order right handed batsman from UP and the Central Zone is currently riding on a crest of success. After an excellent showing for the India A' team on the tours of Los Angeles and West Indies, the highpoint in his career came when India won the U-19 World Cup, under his captaincy, in Sri Lanka recently. The icing on the cake, so to say, was his selection in the Indian team for the first Test match against South Africa. Kaif spoke to S Kishore in an exclusive interview, after his selection to the Indian team.
On taking the big step from the first-class level to test cricket.
It feels great to have been selected for the Test match. My real test will start from now. I have been playing first class cricket since 1998 and got a century in my second match against Haryana. Now that I have reached here, I think international cricket is real hard to play, you have to concentrate and work hard in every department, be patient and wait for the loose ball to score runs. This is real cricket and if you are good enough, you need to succeed here. It is very difficult to get a place in the Indian middle order but whenever I get a chance, I will try to do my best.
On his early years in the game.
I started playing cricket when I was12 years old. I joined Kanpur Hostel, even though I was born in Allahabad, as the facilities at Kanpur are better. Most boys do that to learn more about cricket and for practice. My first breakthrough came when I was selected for the Youth World Cup in England (during 1996) which we won easily, beating Pakistan in the final. I continued to perform well and later, I was picked for the U-19 World Cup in South Africa. These, I would say were my early breakthroughs.
On the influence of his brother, Saif, a fine cricketer himself.
I think Saif has been a bit unlucky. He is a very hard working and committed cricketer. He is a good player and has toured many countries with India U-19 sides and done well there. This year, he got a chance to play for the Central Zone in the Duleep Trophy. He has the potential to do something special. Let us see what happens next. I would say, it does help to have a cricketer as your brother. He is like a friend to me. We talk to each other and try to analyse our mistakes at the nets and during matches. He started his Ranji Trophy career with MP, but for the last one year, we have been playing together for UP. He has been a great help to me.
On whether he would have been better off, playing for a stronger outfit than UP.
I think we have many good and mature players in UP. But, I feel they are a little unlucky in the sense that opportunities are limited. They do not get many chances. All the same, I am of the belief that it doesn't matter which side you play for, as long as you are good enough and have the potential to do something special.
On the highlights of his career, so far.
I reckon the highpoint was winning the U-19 World Cup for India, recently in Sri Lanka. It was a total team effort, with everyone contributing their best. Our coach, Mr Binny was also great, helping us out in every department of the game. I feel, he was the key factor in us winning the World Cup. Apart from this, I was happy with my performance in the West Indies as part of the India A' team and also against Australia in Los Angeles, on a pitch which was under-prepared.
Copyright S Kishore
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