Mohammad Kaif
Mohammad Kaif (AFP Photo)

In July this year, Mohammad Kaif  called time on his cricket career, exactly 16 years after he led India to a famous victory over England in the Natwest Trophy final. Kaif acknowledges he could have played more for India but has no regrets saying he made most of the chances he got to represent the national team.

“I would say I am happy with my career overall and I have no regrets,” Kaif was quoted as saying by Rediff.com on Tuesday. “You can say my career had more quality than quantity. It’s like sometimes you go to a top restaurant and order a dish, the food quantity might be less, but if the quality and taste is good, then it leaves a mark forever.”

Kaif’s international career began in March 2000 when he has handed a Test debut months after captaining India to their first ever ICC U-19 World Cup title. In his 16-year-long career, Kaif played 125 ODIs, scored 2753 runs with two centuries and 17 fifties. However, he played only 13 Tests, scored 624 runs including a century and three half-centuries.

Kaif says his career was more about deliveries quality and the fact that people still recognise him for his iconic 75-ball 87 in the Natwest Trophy final and his fielding, is proof enough of his contribution to the Indian team.

“As far as my career is concerned, I think I delivered quality. I could field well and save runs, and I scored runs whenever needed. I was able to create some good memories in the minds of Indian fans and that is more satisfying for me because whenever I go to places like an airport, people meet me and tell me ‘You are a great fielder.’

“Some go on to say ‘You are still so fit, why aren’t you playing?’ That is very satisfying because I last played for India in 2006, but even today when people meet me they still remember that 2002 final victory at Lord’s, they still remember Kaif as the best fielder who could take some amazing catches, get run outs and save runs on the field,” he said.

Kaif, 37, delivered his finest performance in Test cricket when he scored 64 and 55 in consecutive innings against Australia in 2004-05. The following year, his 91 was instrumental in saving the Nagpur Test against England. He then scored a maiden Test hundred at Gros Islet and averaged 57 in the series when India won a series in West Indies in 2006. However, he never played for India again.

Kaif says the presence of world-class players of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman was one of the reasons why he got limited chances.

“I scored a century in my last Test series, 148 not out against the West Indies in 2006, but I was not selected for the next series. That is because I played in an era where we had so many good players — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly. Even Yuvraj Singh played a few games in between. The reason I didn’t have a long successful Test career because there were so many good players around during my time. At the same time I didn’t get many chances to prove myself, so it was a combination of both,” Kaif said.

Although Kaif has dabbled in politics, media and cricket commentary, his main aim is to become a coach after having retired from cricket. “My long term goal is to do coaching. I have spent around 20 years on the cricket field, so whatever I have learnt I want to pass it on to the next generation. I have plans to coach, but right now my family is young so I will wait. If something concrete comes my way I will think about it,” he said.