New Delhi: Mohammad Kaif’s 87 off 75 at Lord’s in the NatWest Series final against England in 2002 has ensured that he would be a permanent fixture in Indian cricket’s folklore. With an improbable target of 326 to chase and with more than half the Indian batting line-up back in the hut, Kaif batted with the tail to see India over the line.
The winning run was scored off an overthrow with Kaif and Zaheer Khan in the middle. “I would forever remember what happened next. First Yuvraj ran out for a big hug. And then Ganguly, who had the shirt-off celebration on the balcony, ran and jumped onto me and we were both down on the ground. Rahul Dravid too was pumping his fist and celebrating,” said Kaif in a column for The Indian Express.
“He doesn’t do that usually. Behind them, I could see Sachin Tendulkar. In those times, he would never come onto the ground after a match. But there he was that day, running on to the field, high-fiving me. It was a really special moment — some of these legends, who I had grown up watching, were now jumping and celebrating with me.”
Kaif also said that he had become a star back home in Allahabad. “Back home in Allahabad, once I returned, I couldn’t handle the celebrations. I was a shy person but people kept coming to my home. Mummy was serving tea snacks to everyone all the time. The media attention too was different,” he said.
“They would follow me everywhere. I loved to fly kites at the bank of the Yamuna and they would be there too, saying, ‘Look, Kaif ne aaj patang udayi (Kaif flew kites today!)’. Arre! I have been flying kites daily from childhood. It took me a while to understand all those reactions.”