Kaif, who is in his late 20s now, dragged the attention of Indian selectors after his team-which also included Yuvraj Singh, Ajay Ratra and Ritinder Singh Sodhi-clinched U-19 World Cup in 2000. His composure and the fluent style, that belied his age, earned him a Test cap against South Africa when he was only 20.
May be it was too early; he was not able to make an impact that and subsequently got discarded before he had stints at Australian Cricket Academy and NCA in Bangalore to iron out some flaws in his technique. Recalled to the ODI squad in 2001-2002, he showed glimpses of a great caliber. But it was during the 2002 Natwest Series in England that he made headlines, plundering a valiant unbeaten 87 to lead India to victory.
Kaif made a comeback to the Test squad against Australia in 2004 and slammed two gritty half centuries. But, as all cricket fans in the country know, we never don't have any sort of dearth of talent; especially in batting. Understandably, every batsman in the team has to fight and score big runs to save his place and Kaif's middle order batting was not consistent enough to cement a place for long time.
The 29-year old batsman from UP is a kind of player who takes some time to settle and his regular place in domestic cricket and county was number 3. But when he came to India squad, the team already had a specialist in Rahul Dravid and Kaif was not so comfortable at number six or number seven, though he hit some spectacular knocks when he was at peak of his form.
Considering the hype and hoopla it had, the just concluded IPL was a golden opportunity for Kaif to reclaim his place. When Players like Swapnil Asnodkar, Manpreet Singh Goni and Shaun Marsh came to fame from nowhere, Kaif was struggling to adapt to the ultra-abridged version of the game and getting out for paltry scores.
Though IPL champions Rajastan Royal's skipper Shane Warne said, "everyone in the team has contributed; whether it be Ravindra Jadeja at No six, Munaf Patel, Swapnil Asnodkar, Sohail Tanvir, Yusuf Pathan or Graeme Smith at the top, we have eleven match winners." It is certain that he would have had Mohd Kaif in his mind, a batsman who managed only 176 runs for Royals in 14 innings at a paltry average of 16. The decent scores he made in IPL was two 34s against bottom-placed Deccan Charges, a team that managed only 2 wins in 14 matches, and Kolkata Knight Riders.
When Yusuf Pathan and Pragyan Ojha, two of the some youngsters excelled in IPL, earned call up for making their ODI debut in Bangladesh, Kaif must be lamenting the opportunity he missed.
When former skipper Rahul Dravid, who scored 371 IPL runs at an average of 28.5 runs and 124.08 as strike rate, himself failed to impress the selectors, it sends out a clear message. Team India wants only promising youngsters and the selectors are no longer ready to follow conventional rules of team selection. Don't you think that time is running out for Kaif and he may never wear Indian cap again?