You can’t talk about Indian fielding without mentioning the name of our next champion. In conversation with Gaurav Kapur, Mohammad Kaif talks all things cricket. This is a special one for all our cricket aficionados.
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Cast Of Characters – Tijuana Radio
Shimmer – Kindness
Cast Of Characters – La Guitarra Triste
AlterEgo – Peso
Stephen Keech, Chelsea McGough – Selha
Fairlight – Detour In Velour
King Flamingo – Cidade Da Paixão
Moments – Life In Wonder
When you were playing for the Indian team did you have a coach
who used to engage everyone? Greg Chappell, who used to…
Engage everyone… You had to bring this topic up. I just wanted to take the name. – Name…
– Tell me one thing. – Yes?
– Among the cricketers of that era… When I take Greg Chappell's name,
is there any one who wouldn't smirk? The smug smile. Which reveals something. – Thoughts hidden behind the smile.
– Exactly. Let's talk about that day… The NatWest trophy. When was it?
Let me recollect. 13th July 2002. – Correct!
– Correct? It was 13th July, 2002. – Correct answer.
– "Correct answer". According to me,
that day was one of the turning points. NatWest finals. For me, it was an opportunity.
To prove all the hard work I did from childhood.
I didn't want to let it go. I still remember, when Sachin
got out and I entered the ground… It was a common belief those days that
we lose the match if Sachin gets out. That it was impossible for the Indian
team to win after Sachin's dismissal. People started leaving the stadium. It was sad to see the crowd leaving. "We are still here". "Watch us play". – Even my parents left to watch a movie.
– What? After Sachin got out…
There was a movie called Devdas. There was a theatre near my house.
So they left, locking the house. They didn’t watch their son play. Live. When I won,
the entire colony turned up at my house. The door was locked. They thought that since I took the team
to victory, they are inside the house and have purposely locked
the house from the outside so that people don't gather. They started banging on the door
even after seeing the lock. They realised there's nobody at home. Then they went to my parents. – Outside the theatre?
– Yes. My family left the movie and came out.
That's when they learnt about my inning. That was something different. I had no specific plans while batting. I had to watch the ball. I knew it would
be the golden opportunity of my life. Especially batting at number 7. Sachin and Sehwag won't get out
cheaply on a regular basis. You won't always get an opportunity
to play for 25 overs. I hardly got 6 or 7 overs to bat. Yuvraj was in such a great batting form.
I just played my role. It just happened. If we weren't good friends, maybe we
wouldn't have made that partnership. We had a good understanding. We never hid anything from each other.
We used to hang out together. We've been playing together. How to take a quick single… We didn't have to speak
to communicate while playing. He knows how I play. And I know how he plays. Even at that time,
we used to forget about the loud call. We just used to look
at each other and run. So that's understanding. It was the same with Bhajji(Harbhajan Singh).
Once I hit a rash shot. It was a close match.
He came to me and said "What are you doing?" I said that we must
start hitting hard now. He asked me to look at the scoreboard
saying we need a run a ball. In that two minute conversation we get a belief or realisation and get a clarity of things. Immediately after, Bhajji(Harbhajan Singh)
tried to hit Flintoff and got bowled. I always tell him that
we needed a run a ball. I wasn't the only one playing. He played a rash stroke
and was bowled by Flintoff. Then Kumble came and then the others.
Kumble got out on the first ball. My challenge was that
Laxman was not in the playing 11. Dravid took up wicket-keeping
as he wanted me to come in at number 7. Because along with fielding, I had to also
support the team with my batting. So, I didn't want to lose
the opportunity at hand. Thank God, it happened. But you still stayed not out – Yes.
– in the end. Which is what I liked. That you took the responsibility
after reaching that point in the match. When I was young, Dad used to say "Son, stay not out in life". While batting…
It was a match of 30 overs. Usually 25 to 30 overs in Allahabad. Hit just 50 runs but don't get out. Earlier, cricketers used to
believe in not getting out. It doesn't matter if you score less runs but don't get dismissed. So, your father was also a sportsperson
in his younger days. At what level did he play? – My father played Ranji Trophy matches.
– Yeah. He played 62 first class matches. – Seventeen years he had played.
– Wow. – This was the environment in the house.
– Of cricket. – When you said you wanted…
– I had no other option. So, you had no other option? No, I had no option.
Cricket was in the air. "It's family business"… Since childhood I've been seeing his
'Man of the Match' and the other tournament trophies
at home. My two elder brothers,
they too were into cricket. I used to go with them to field.
Help them out in the nets. To pass the ball. You wouldn't get to bat
as you're the younger brother. I had to bowl to them. That was the situation. But I got help,
as I learned to play quite early. I used to watch my dad play
and learn from it. I remember watching India's
tour in Australia and New Zealand. Watching India, Australia, New Zealand
matches at 4 AM during the winter… with my blanket on.
There was a room with a small TV. My dad was fond of watching. So he used to watch TV at 4:30 AM and
have his tea with butter and toast. Mom would get the tea. the whole family,
including my sister. All wrapped in a blanket. McDermott used to apply that cream… – Zinc cream.
– Zinc cream! Bowlers used to wear zinc cream those days. My upbringing was such that
there was a cricket culture at home. Under 19 World Cup, you lifted the trophy. Was that one of the greatest
moments of your life? Yes! – Because from there, you get a base.
– Yeah. There's no turning back from there. For me, the biggest moment was beating
Australia in the semi-finals. – Yeah.
– Shane Watson. Michael Clarke.
Nathan Hauritz, their off spinner. Mitchell Johnson. It was a good team. – Wow.
– That was a big match. Their team was strong and Yuvraj Singh
had won the 'Man of the Match' trophy. Just seeing that strong team made us want to win the match.
We felt happy defeating them. That was a big moment. You made good friends through that. Did the friendships last long? Those friendships do last. Right? I know Bhajji(Harbhajan Singh)
and Yuvraj since 1996. In 1996, I met them
for the first time in a train. In Goa, we had North and Central
zonal tournaments. – So they were going to Goa and I was…
– Yuvraj Singh in a train? – Yes, in train.
– Not in a Mercedes S-Class? In a train? Oh no. – And not in the AC coach…
– Without AC? Oh no. It's quite unfair. It takes time.
By train, it takes 48 hours. – Correct.
– It takes 2 days. There are vendors now and then. You get to know about each other
completely in two days. I had a great understanding
with Yuvraj since 1996. Later, we played many matches for India. He was fielding at point and I was at
cover. We used to communicate there. – Yes.
– "Ganguly's captaincy isn't good". We communicated in such a way
that it wouldn't reach the others. All were seniors. And we were… Young. We talk about the mistakes. "They don't know.
We kids know better." "Anil Kumble is bowling short balls". Our talks wouldn't be audible to the others. There were a lot of seniors in
the team when you guys were playing. Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble,
Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. They were our role models. We had watched them on TV. Then we got a chance to play with them. At first you feel like is this reality
or not, you have to pinch yourself It was a big moment to play with them to share the dressing room,
to travel together, go for meetings together. We were lucky to play with such seniors
who taught us about life. They taught us to be good human
beings besides being good cricketers. They taught us ethics. How to carry yourself. Discipline. Life. Beyond cricket. Specially those who are young, like me.
I was in my twenties. Yuvraj Singh was of my age. We were mystified
to see Sachin. We wondered if it was – the same Sachin who hit sixes at Sharjah.
– Desert Storm! Operation Desert Storm. That inning was so deeply etched in my memory that I used to copy his shot
during net practice. I used to try the punch…
The half-hearted shot for a six. I used to dream of hitting
such a shot while playing. I tried but never happened. I spent a lot of time with Dravid. – He was very hard working.
– Yes. He wasn't born talented. But he worked hard. I've batted with Dravid quite a few times. During the 2004 series in Pakistan we were 2-1 down. We needed around 140 runs. Sorry, it was a partnership of 136 runs. My bat broke during the match.
A chip had come off. He signed the bat and wrote
"Well played, Kaifi" – "Partnership 136 not out."
– Nice. "between Kaif and Dravid".
I still have that bat at home. That match is memorable. Because if we had lost that match
then we wouldn't have won the series. Then it became 2-2. We won the series 3-2. And wouldn't your discussions
with him(Rahul Dravid) be serious? He was so focussed that… Couldn't speak to him
in UP style, right? …if you tell him there’s a bird flying
over his head, he won’t look. Yuvraj would still get distracted. Rahul Dravid will only see his target. Rahul Dravid will only aim at the goal. And that is a "ball". Ball and gap. Remember your debut? Do you remember that day or the night before? That match was against South Africa.
Allan Donald. Klusener…
At that time, before he got injured, – he used to bowl at 141-145 kmph. Kallis.
– Yeah. – Pollock. Hayward.
– Nantie Hayward! I haven't heard Nantie Hayward's
name from a long time. If I have to use a word for him,
then it would be "crazy". He was crazy. – Insane.
– Insane. When you show the pitch map as good length,
full length or short of length… He didn't believe in that. Back of a length.
A bouncer aimed at your head. That is what he believed.
He never bowled a full length delivery to me. The power with which he bowled
made me feel at that time, that I wasn't ready. Sometime back, as a young player… I won the under-19 World Cup – in Sri Lanka. There was fame and hype.
– Yeah. Played well in domestic. And suddenly, I got a chance. But I felt I wasn't ready.
Handling that pace. I hadn't faced that pace
in domestic matches. I've seen players whom selectors
give a chance in a hurry. Just because of the hype and the team not
doing well, selectors add them in the team. There's a saying. I was in Allahabad. An elderly man had come home.
He said that… It's said that men learn from their mistakes. Wise men don't make mistakes.
They learn when others commit a mistake and realise the mistake. – So wise men are those…
– Who learn from others' mistakes. I asked him,
"Where were you all this while?" I changed after that South Africa tour.
I was in Bangalore. After that Test match, there was an ODI.
There were many changes. Sachin refused the captaincy. Then Ganguly took over. When Sourav Ganguly became
the captain there was imbalance and things weren't working well in the team. But one thing that all youngsters
agree on is… I mean your generation. You, Yuvi, Bhajji, Veeru, Ashu, Zak. All agree that he used to back everyone. That was his special quality.
Players know that when they play,
they have the backing from the captain. It's important to know that the captain
is supporting you. Not in good times, but in bad times. – Nice.
– Everyone is with you during the good times. When you do badly in three consecutive
matches and even then you are confident that you'll play the next three matches… The pressure we have…
To play the game as we like. That comfort and backing
must be given by the captain. That Ganguly did provide.
We knew what our role was. I score 30 runs in 30 balls. If you make 30 runs in 30 balls
and save 20 runs while fielding. You've made 50 runs. For me the worth is the
same as that of a player who makes 100 runs. You're equal. That was a big thing for me. As a new comer, I was 20 or 21, the captain
comes to me and tells me my role. – I felt elated.
– Yeah. I had this urge to do something
for the captain and the team. Once you get that feeling, the team
gets better. We all had that feeling. Bhajji(Harbhajan Singh), Yuvraj, Zaheer Khan,
Ashish Nehra and all the newcomers had the same feeling that we've to bond
with the captain wholeheartedly and to support him. During the super over
in the recent match – between KKR and Delhi Capitals.
– Yes. I was writing something.
Rabada was bowling the last over. We had to defend 10 runs in the super over.
I was noting something down. He was standing besides the dugout. I was beside him(Sourav Ganguly) and… Was writing something. He said, "Stop writing".
I asked, "Why?" "It's not the time to write.
This is the time to pray." He told me to pray and was holding
his mala that he always carried. He was holding it. Now that you're spending time
with Sourav Ganguly at Delhi Capitals as he is the coach. Tell me, the coach job is not to
make players but to run the team? I feel that IPL is all about man-management. Nothing else. Skill-based and all that is just hogwash.
I don't believe in that. It's not so much technical. It's more…
It's a skill based format. And you pick players those
who are ready to deliver. – But…
– That's why Dhoni is smart. – Yeah.
– He's picking players who are ready. Yeah. If Rishabh Pant is asked to play forward defence for four overs. He might just give up and leave. "I'm going home". "Pant is like…" From whatever I know about him,
he looks like a slogger but… – Yeah. He is a smart guy, right?
– He is a smart thinker of the game. – I've seen him. He is very sorted.
– Yeah. He is very sorted. How many catches to take during practice?
How many balls to hit? Timings of the shoot. When to go to the gym. He is ready. He doesn't need much guidance. He doesn't look out of place.
He knows his responsibility. Tell me.
When you were in the hostel… Were you in the same place
as Suresh Raina? – That's in Lucknow.
– Lucknow. There's one in Lucknow and one in Kanpur. Where players from UP were picked,
at an early age and sent for training. I left home at the age of 12. The initial two years were horrible
for me as I was a kid. There were seniors who used to bully me. – Mom used to write letters to me in Urdu.
– Wow. She used to write in a formal way.
"Assuming you are fine" "Hope you made friends."
It was very respectful. Wonderful memory. But you can't reply back saying you don't
have friends or that they are ragging you. No, I can't say that.
She would get worried if I had said that. – Right.
– As long as you're a junior your role is different. You won't get a chance to bat,
you have to pass the balls at the nets. The main players are given more importance. Was there a ground on
which you could slide? – There was.
– I was very lucky. You were. You were the only one who got that. When I came to the Indian team,
many players… – tried to be better fielders.
– Yeah. But they couldn't succeed
because they didn't have a proper base. For me sliding and diving was normal.
So was the pain. – Fun is more important.
– Yeah. There are people who dive for the team get injured,
go out of the team for six months and when they come back,
they lose their spot in the team. Even that is a possible danger. So you get the belief
of how to succeed in life without being dependent on someone. It's better to have clarity
on whether you're capable or not. People will respect you only if you've
strength else just keep passing the ball. You inspire people.
I am lucky that people still remember me and talk to me
about the matches. I played my last match in
2006 in an ODI and test. After that I never got
into the team again. This is 2019. They still remember my previous matches and the details of my match
played in England. I praise their memory. It's an old story now. People speak about the catch in Pakistan.
When we won in Karachi. The last over finish. So, it's a nice compliment. I feel happy. For more such stories,
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