WC 2003 - Fielding captain Kaif relishes his number four spot

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Durban: Even as he tries to shake off "one of the darkest days" of his cricketing career when irate fans vandalised his Allahabad home, Mohammed Kaif relishes his new position in the Indian batting order and the responsibility as the "fielding captain".Kaif was visibly shaken after miscreants defaced his house following India's crushing loss to Australia at the start of their World Cup campaign but now seems to have overcome that phase to some extent."I just could not believe it and felt very sad. How would anyone feel if his house is vandalised in this manner?" Kaif asked in his simple, endearing tone. "I find it very difficult to believe. We had just started our campaign and one loss surely should not have warranted it. Those were the darkest days of my cricketing life," said Kaif.But now runs have begun to flow from Kaif's bat and the added responsibility of "fielding captain" has also done wonders to the confidence of this simple youngster. Kaif is one of the two fielding captains in the Indian team which also has two "batting captains" and two "bowling captains". These six "captains" convey to the rest what is expected of them in the next game as the players do their nets. "Before a game, me and Yuvraj, the other fielding captain, discuss the ground size and other factors in a team meeting. We also mark our opponents well. If the ground is big, we ask others to be a little inside so as to prevent singles being converted into twos. "If a hitter is as big as Chris Cairns- who also because of his injury does not run too much and likes to get his run in boundaries- we prefer to have fielders on the edge of the ropes," Kaif said. The stylish batsman said he was now among runs because of his promotion in the batting order. "I am among runs because I was allowed to settle down at number four," said Kaif. "The captain and the coach felt since I was not getting runs at number seven, I should be promoted higher up the order so that I could find my rhythm rather than go hurly-burly in the final overs," Kaif said."Since I have always batted at number three in all class of cricket back home, I immediately felt at ease at number four in this World Cup." Kaif vindicated the faith with a classy unbeaten 68 against New Zealand last week which offset the loss of three early wickets and enabled India to post a seven-wicket win.Besides, his valuable contribution with the bat, Kaif also has had some memorable moments in the field, the run-out of Nick Knight in the league stage being the highlight the ball had gone to covers and Knight had set off only to find Kaif go airborne and crash the non-striker's end in a flash."I could not have thrown that delivery onto the stumps. The only thing I could have done was to dive on to the stumps," Kaif explained. Kaif comes from a cricketing family. His father Mohammed Tarif played first class cricket for Uttar Pradesh for number of years and his brother too is a first class cricketer. Many experts have likened Kaif's mannerisms to former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin but Kaif feels any resemblance, if at all, is incidental."Many tell me I bat and behave like Azhar bhai. But I have never copied anyone. I have always played like the way I do now." Kaif progressed up the ladder the hard way, going through the grind and Ranji Trophy cricket, before his elevation as captain of India Under-19 team in Sri Lanka a few years ago, changed his fortunes.Kaif cannot forget the moment when he made it to the seniors team and had a chance to share the same dressing room as Sachin Tendulkar. "There were some great names and I was sharing the same dressing room as someone like Sachin Tendulkar. I had only seen him on television and was a bit overawed. But he and other seniors made me feel comfortable."Kaif has had many memorable moments already in his international career but understandably nothing comes close to his amazing 87 struck in the NatWest trophy final against England last summer."NatWest was special because I played a part in the final - but a spot in the semi-finals of the World Cup is a close second," said Kaif. Kaif is now eagerly looking forward to the biggest challenge lying ahead winning the World Cup."We are just two wins away from our glory. The team has worked together as a family in the last two years. If we can get our act together, we can go all the way," he said. PTI

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