In this second and final part of the interview, Kaif tells MyNation about his failed political career, Indian captain Virat Kohli, Shane Warne’s role in the Indian Premier League (IPL), his best cricket friends and his regrets
In the first part of the exclusive interview with MyNation, published on August 31, former India batsman Mohammad Kaif talked about the NatWest Trophy win in 2002, Greg Chappell's coaching and Sourav Ganguly's captaincy. He also talked about various facets of his career and revealed his post-retirement plans which include emphasis on “cricket counselling” for youngsters across the nation.
In this second and final part of the interview, Kaif tells MyNation about his failed political career, Indian captain Virat Kohli, Shane Warne’s role in the Indian Premier League (IPL), his best cricket friends and his regrets. Excerpts:
My Nation: You made an entry into politics and did not go well. Are you planning to make a comeback into politics during the Lok Sabha elections in 2019?
Mohammad Kaif: No plans in politics. I tried but of course it did not work out. I have been associated with cricket for nearly 25 years. Now, I want to give back to the game. I want to stick with this sport. Not going back to politics.
MN: The 2002 NatWest final is etched in every Indian’s memory and so is that shirt-waving celebration by Sourav Ganguly on the Lord’s balcony. What was your first reaction to the captain’s celebration?
Kaif: I was not expecting that kind of a reaction from Ganguly. He was a big player, my role model. I did not expect that kind of a reaction (chuckles). I was tired after my knock, having batted for long and also there was a lot of running involved. That jump (from Ganguly) put more load on my back. I did not expect that kind of a jump, putting all his body weight on me (chuckles again). Jokes part, it was a fantastic reaction from the captain. It gave me a lot of self-belief. He made me to believe that I belong to the Indian team.
MN: Virat Kohli has been in prolific form across formats and in different countries. Most of us think he will break Sachin Tendulkar’s records. What do you think?
Kaif: I am sure he would (break Tendulkar’s records). Talking about the current England tour, all eyes were on Kohli and he has been in fantastic form. He had a very average tour last time (2014) and he has scored runs in style this time around. Two centuries so far, and the way he has batted in seaming and swinging conditions, for me, he is already a legend. He has played well in South Africa, Australia and now in England. He has been fantastic. When it comes to breaking records, I think he will break all records. He is still young, he is just 29. He has a long career ahead.
One thing which amazes me is that despite the responsibility of captaincy he has been scoring runs. You are always under pressure captaining the Indian team. There are a lot of expectations from fans and media. Cricket is a big sport in India. The way he has been batting despite that load of captaincy, I am quite amazed. How does a person take so much of pressure and still deliver? And Kohli has done it. I was looking at his strike rate and it is close to 60 (in Tests). People score runs, hit centuries, but that kind of strike rate is something different. I have seen Sachin bat, (Rahul) Dravid bat at their best, but the kind of strike rate which Kohli has is quite remarkable. When Kohli scores with such an amazing strike rate, the team will always be ahead of the game and in winning positions most of the time. He captains the side, scores runs and wins Man of the Match awards — Kohli is at a different level.
MN: You were part of the Rajasthan Royals franchise which won the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. How was it to play under captain Shane Warne?
Kaif: Shane Warne was unbelievable. We had a very young team at Rajasthan Royals in the first edition of the IPL. The first few matches we lost and the way we came back, it was due to Warne. He had the vision. Of course he had the experience of captaining in T20s in England. We did not have established players in the squad apart from Graeme Smith and myself. We had a lot of young players like Shane Watson, Sohail Tanvir, Kamran Akmal and others. It was unbelievable the way Warne guided the team. He encouraged the young boys. Because of him a lot of players, including Ravindra Jadeja, Siddarth Trivedi, Munaf Patel and others benefitted a lot.
MN: Who were your best friends while playing?
Kaif: I had a lot of fun playing with Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) and Yuvraj Singh. We shared a lot of emotions on and off the field. I had known Bhajji and Yuvraj right from Under-16 days. Also, there was Virender Sehwag. It was fantastic to have been able to spend some nice time with my colleagues. Sachin was my role model and also Dravid, whose work ethics I admired. It was brilliant to have copied Sachin’s straight drive while growing up and later playing with him. To share some great moments on the field with Sachin was a different feeling.
MN: Do we see Kaif as a future India fielding coach?
Kaif: Fielding is something which people relate with me, but I want to do a lot more after retirement. I have been working with Under-16, Under-19 and Ranji players. I have guided the (Suresh) Rainas, RP Singhs, Praveen Kumars, and Bhuvneshwar Kumars in Uttar Pradesh. Then, I went to Andhra Pradesh and helped young cricketers there. With regard to fielding, I will probably be looking at grooming young Indian players. I have been involved with youngsters. It was cricket counselling. I was looking after their overall development as cricketers. Not just fielding, I would want to look at other aspects of coaching as well and add them to my profile. I want to do cricket counselling with the youth. That is my plan.
MN: These days, we see a lot of cricketers from small cities making it big. What is your message to small-town boys who dream of playing for India?
Kaif: Now things have improved in Indian cricket. And there is also social media where the cricketers get a lot of exposure. With social media, they have got a lot of awareness about the game. However, one needs to spend a lot of time on the field, not on the internet. My advice to youngsters is not to take the game too seriously and just enjoy. Some youngsters put themselves under too much pressure, thinking too much about the game. They have to enjoy their game, learn as much as possible through watching videos, which I am doing now. During my playing days, I was not watching many cricket videos. Now I like to watch players’ videos, read what they write, articles on cricket. With this, it is important to spend hours of time on the field. These things will help in the overall development of a cricketer.
MN: Are there any regrets in your cricket life?
Kaif: Not at all. I am happy with the way I played. (However) after the kind of tour I had in 2006, when I scored my maiden Test century, I was not picked for the next Test series. It took me a while to come to terms (with the fact) that I was dropped from the Indian team. I was a little disappointed, but I guess that is how it goes. Sometimes when you have legends like Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, (VVS) Laxman playing in the same team, it is difficult to find a place. I remember I made 91 against England (in March 2006) in Nagpur. Anil Kumble and I had a partnership and we were able to draw that Test. I did not get to play the next match. So I had my ups and downs. I made my comeback, got a couple of fifties against Australia. I went to Bangladesh and I did not play again. Overall, I am happy with the respect I got from fans — the passionate people of India. I would say I am satisfied with my cricket career.
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Last Updated Sep 9, 2018, 9:43 AM IST