People remember me because of that win: Kaif

Today is 10 years for arguably India’s best win in ODI cricket.

Chasing 326 for victory against England at Lord’s in the final of the NatWest Series final, India scampered home with two wickets to spare. MiD DAY caught up with Man of the Match Mohammad Kaif, who starred in the famous win by scoring 87 not out. Excerpts:

Heroes: Mohd Kaif (extreme left) celebrates with his mates after winning the NatWest Series final at Lord’s. PIC/Getty images

How do you look back at the victory?
It was a very special day in my life. In fact, it was a turning point of my career. We had lost nine consecutive one-day finals before this, so it was a very special win for all of us. People remember me because of that win. From rickshawallas to celebrities, they know me because of that knock. That win made my life.

What memories flash in your mind when you think of that day?
There are many memories. I remember Sourav Ganguly’s celebration (waving his shirt from the Lord’s balcony), Nasser Hussain’s gesture (pointing towards his jersey number at the likes of Ian Botham in the press box after scoring a hundred), Ganguly jumping on me after we won the match. So many things happened in that day. Even coach John Wright, who is generally cool and calm, was nervous that day.

What was going through your mind when you walked in to bat with India 146 for five?
Everybody thought that India were bad chasers. We had to prove them wrong. Like many, even I had no hopes of winning the final. I was only thinking of not losing by a big margin. I aimed to stick around and get as close to the target… put up
a fight.

Mohd Kaif celebrates after winning the NatWest Series final against England in 2002. Pics/Getty Images

What did you and Yuvraj Singh discuss in the middle?
We were youngsters and wanted to cement our place in the XI. Yuvraj was in great form. Though I didn’t score big before the final, I had some form going for me. At that stage (146-5), it was important to build a partnership. I wanted to give him (Yuvraj) most of the strike as he was striking the ball well. I was only thinking of supporting him, stay with him at the crease. The way he was playing also gave me confidence.

Were you surprised at Ganguly’s shirt-waving celebration?
Yes, very much. I never thought he would be so pumped up. I have a DVD of it and I noticed that Ganguly did not move from his place while we were batting. I am thrilled that I was part of a historic win at a historic venue.

What was the best part of the victory?
I will never forget the way Ganguly jumped on me after the win. He didn’t leave me for a long time. He didn’t say anything… he was just very emotional… I could feel how important that win was. Every player cried that day. It was an overwhelming moment for everyone.

When I reached Allahabad railway station, I got onto a jeep and there were thousands of fans waiting to receive me. It generally takes around 15-20 minutes to reach my home from the station, but that day it took me more than an hour.

People wanted me to wave at them, which I wasn’t comfortable doing because I would have looked like a politician (laughs).

How did you celebrate the win in the hotel?
The whole team went out and had a good time. We danced and partied till late in the night. There were many Indian fans on the streets celebrating the win. I almost felt like we were in India.

Was there a point to prove for you and Yuvraj?
We were hungry to succeed. We wanted to make a mark. I was dropped a few times before, so I had to prove myself. I had to prove Ganguly right, who backed us all the way.

I am still hungry (for comeback). I’m not yet done with cricket. I have not yet turned into a former cricketer. 

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