Born, December 1, 1980, Mohammad Kaif is a cricketer from India who made it to the national side with some outstanding performances at the Under-19 level. He even led the Indian team to victory in the U-19 World Cup in 2000. Hailing from the backwaters of Uttar Pradesh, Kaif rose to become one of the best fielders India ever produced. On his birthday, Abhishek Kumar digs out 16 facts from his career.

1. Cricketing family

Kaif was not the first person to become a cricketer in his family. His father Mohammad Tarif was also a cricketer from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and had represented the provincial side as well as Railways team. Kaif s elder brother Mohammad Saif also played for UP and Madhya Pradesh (MP).

2. Lucknow Sports Hostel

Kaif is a product of the famed Lucknow Sports Hostel, which has produced several international cricketers like Suresh Raina, RP Singh and Gyanendra Pandey.

3. Led India to U-19 World Cup 2000 win

Kaif was appointed as the captain of India U-19 side in the year 2000. Under his captaincy, India didn t lose a single match and won the tournament by defeating Sri Lanka in the final at Colombo on January 28, 2000.

4. Impactful ODI debut

Kaif made his One-Day International (ODI) debut against England at Green Park Stadium, Kanpur in 2002 but didn t get the chance to bat. In the next match at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, Kaif got the chance to bat for the first time when India were chasing 272. He scored a composed 46 runs in that match, though the result was not in favour of India, as they lost the match by 2 runs.

5. His best knock

Kaif made his Test debut in 2000 but had to wait for his ODI debut. Kaif played his first (ODI) in 2002 and became the permanent member of the team when he played the best knock of his life in the final of Natwest series 2002 against England at Lord s. He came in to bat when India were 5 wickets down for 146 in the 24th over. From there on, Kaif kept rotating the strike with Yuvraj Singh, who was scoring runs quickly. After Yuvraj got out, Kaif started accelerating and won the match for India in the nail-bitting last over along with Zaheer Khan. He scored 87 from 75 balls and was also awarded with Man of the Match award.

He explained the moment as the greatest moment of his life in an interview by saying, When Ganguly came and hugged me in his arms it really felt great. It was a great feeling.

6. Role Model

Kaif was inspired by former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin, who is known for his wristy and attacking batting style besides brilliant fielding skills. His second hero is Sachin Tendulkar. Interestingly, both were there in his debut Test. It was Azhar s last Test and Tendulkar s last match as captain.

7. Unusual batting grip

Kaif had a very unusual style of holding the grip of the bat. One hand at the very top on the handle and another at the bottom. This resulted in a big gap between his two hands. In an interview, he admitted that it was a wrong technique by him and it was mainly because he never had the right coach when he was a teenager.

Mohammad Kaif    AFP
Mohammad Kaif AFP

8. When no one was watching the match at his house: When Kaif was playing the best knock of his life in the final of NatWest Series in 2002, there was no one in his family to watch the match live as all of them had gone to watch a film. It was very surprising for Kaif because his parents usually don t watch movies.

9. Funny sledging by Kaif

During the second Test against Pakistan at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in March 2005, Kaif was called on the field by his captain Sourav Ganguly as a substitute fielder in the second innings of the match. Pakistani batsman Yousuf Youhana (now Mohammad Yousuf) was playing at the crease at a score of 4 for 178. Yousuf had scored 22 runs from 87 balls, which actually irritated Kaif and he started sledging him. Kaif mocked Yousuf s slow rate of scoring and made a jibe that the fielder shouldn t be stationed in the outfield as Yousuf can t score boundaries.

When Razzaq came at the crease, Kaif didn t lose that chance and once again he started with his funny sledging by saying, bowling me toh itni baat karta hai aaj nai karega (while bowling you kept speaking, what happened now) . Eventually, India won that match by 195 runs.

10. Love for home food

Kaif loves home food, especially made by his mother. He likes to eat pulav with some mango pickle.

11. Expensive but not worth it

In the inaugural season of Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008, Kaif was the highest paid cricketer for Rajasthan Royals with $675,000 USD. However, he had a very poor run throughout the tournament and scored only 176 runs at an average of 16. Later, on April 15, 2009, he was axed from the Royals side but was bought by Kings XI Punjab in 2010 for $250,000 USD. He also played for Royal Challengers Bangalaore (RCB) later on.

12. Excellent fielder

Without doubt, Kaif was an excellent fielder. He is best known for his amazing run-out of Nick Knight in the group match against England in 2003 World Cup at Kingsmead, Durban. Not only run outs, he has also taken some excellent catches and was known for his long throws which went directly to the stumps.

13. From Uttar Pradesh to Andhra Pradesh to Chhattisgarh

In July 2014, Kaif decided to step down from captaincy of UP and then moved on to Andhra Pradesh. He was appointed as the captain there too. He remained the part of Andhra team till 2015-16 season and then joined Chhattisgarh. At present, he plays the role of both player and the mentor for young cricketers of Chhattisgarh.

14. Commentator

In the year 2015, Kaif moved one step ahead in his career and also started doing commentary during matches of India. Currently, he is a well known Hindi commentator along with his UP mate RP Singh.

15. Politics

Mohammad Kaif in a rally during 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign    Getty Images
Mohammad Kaif in a rally during 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign Getty Images

In the General Elections of India in 2014, Kaif contested from UP s Phulpur constituency on a Congress party ticket but lost to Keshav Prasad Maurya of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

16. Wife

Mohammad Kaif with wife Pooja Yadav    Getty Images
Mohammad Kaif with wife Pooja Yadav Getty Images

Kaif got married to a girl named Pooja on March 25, 2011. His wife is an executive with a Delhi-based event management company. The couple have a son also named Kabir.

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with CricLife and He can be followed at @abhik2593)