Mohammad Kaif played 13 Tests and 125 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for India. If Sourav Ganguly got the chance to take off his jersey and wave it from the balcony of Lord’s dressing room after the famous NatWest 2002 series , it was largely because Kaif and Yuvraj Singh at that point. An amazing fielder and handy middle-order batsmen, Kaif fell off the selector’s choices after a string of poor performances. However, that have not stopped people from recognising and asking him questions about why he is not part of the national side anymore. Kaif, who plays for Andhra in Ranji Trophy, feels that changes in the managements change, so does the attitude of people around. Mohammad Kaif: Street fighter with a ‘never say die’ attitude

“They still come and tell me, ‘Aren’t you the guy who won India the NatWest final in 2002? Why don’t you play for India these days?’ It isn’t easy explaining them that I last played for India in 2006. That I now play for Andhra Pradesh in domestic cricket, but I feel happy that my fans still remember me…remember my fielding,” Kaif was quoted as saying by Times of India. India vs England NatWest tri-series final 2002: Reflections of a glorious triumph

“When managements change, so do attitudes. The decision makers who followed Sourav Ganguly and John Wright — coach Greg Chappell and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar — didn’t have the same confidence in me. I came under pressure, and failed. Looking back, I should’ve spoken to them more, rather than just focus on making runs. I suffered due to my reserved nature,” Kaif added.

Speaking about former India coach, Chappell, Kaif said, “Chappell created an atmosphere where the players were backbiting about each other rather than focusing on their performances. He questioned my fielding technique and it left me so confused that I dropped a catch in the very next game.”

When Kaif needed help the most, he found no one to guide him. He said, “It was very hard initially. I needed help, but there was no one for me because I had become a loner, perhaps selfish while playing for India. I hardly had any friends. To make it worse, I started asking everyone what I needed to do to make a comeback. Interestingly, everyone else who was dropped after me made a comeback, except me.”

“I got married, opened up a lot more and made friends, and did things for them so that they would be around when I needed them. I wasn’t ready to play for India when I was picked first, and I didn’t deserve to be dropped when I was,” Kaif added.

Kaif hopes that no other cricketer has to go similar experience. “The culture in the Andhra team is completely different to that in the UP team. There, I’ve handled a Praveen Kumar and an RP Singh. They don’t hold back their words to a batsman. I’m trying to make these boys more expressive too. I encourage everyone to speak. Communication is my endeavour while leading the side, and it’d be the same when I coach one too. Unlike what happened to me, I’d communicate with a player on why he was dropped, and what he needs to do to come back,” he said.

Andhra were promoted from Group C to B. However, Kaif has faced a lot of problem adjusting and understanding the language. “I struggled in my first game. The opposition ended up scoring 600-plus, as I tore my hair out trying to communicate with my bowlers, some of whom had no clue what I was trying to tell them. Then, I found a solution: I would speak to some of the seniors in English, and they would then communicate my instructions to the bowlers. The results started to show,” Kaif said.