Mohammad Kaif, who recently announced his retirement from all forms of the game, has come out and said that he leaves the game with the no regrets having played for the country alongside Indian Cricket's golden generation. Kaif was once able to break into an Indian side that had Sachin, Dravid, Sourav, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Kumble and Srinath and it's a fact that he is absolutely proud of.
In an interview given to Bangalore Mirror, Kaif talked about all things regarding his career and said, "I was merely 21 during the ’02 Nat- West series. For the next four years, I was at my peak. When you’re playing well and watching the ball nicely — I got my maiden Test ton in the ’06 series against West Indies — and still don’t get chances, you do get despondent. It wasn’t that I was 35 and worldly-wise. Even in the 2006 Ranji season I was among the runs for Uttar Pradesh, getting 92 and 109 against Bengal to win the final. I’d played 125 ODIs to earn respect."
"Maybe I wouldn’t have been as bitter had I been spoken to by the captain or the coach. For me, it was obviously disappointing that I couldn’t play for India again. When Sachin (Tendulkar) was injured for the 2008 Kanpur Test against South Africa, I was called up but didn’t get a chance. My runs didn’t dry up but my career was long over."
Kaif was not a naturally gifted batsman and had an unusual technique. When asked about his game specifically, he said, "I never had formal coaching so to speak so I couldn’t become a copybook player. I didn’t have an orthodox game in that I couldn’t align my shoulder and elbow in line with the ball the way technically sound batsmen do. I didn’t have attributes like correct head position either. I’d focus on matches, play lots of them in UP. My match temperament was developed in the process. Things, like picking the gaps and reacting in the right way to match situations, became my skills. What mattered was I could get runs."
"Only late in my career after I was dropped did I receive advice. During the 2008 IPL, Aamir Sohail (former Pakistan batsman) suggested that if I could
shorten the gap between my hands, I could pack more power behind my shots. Being shy, I was reluctant to detailed approach to my seniors. I didn’t pick the brains of somebody like Greg Chappell. That worked against my development. I’d sweat it out at nets, but sometimes you need to approach the right people too in order to improve. I could have asked any of my seniors to join me for dinner, discussed where my career was going or minor aspects of my game like the stance."
More than his batting, Kaif was known for his athleticism in the field. He fondly remembers that famous catch to dismiss Shoaib Malik in the 2004 Karachi ODI.
"That catch is an example for youngsters who want to be involved in the contest all the time. I was the fittest in the Indian team. When the ball travelled in the air, I took it as my opportunity to do something special. That’s what you train for. You live for such moments. I was hoping something like that would happen so that I could be a hero. That catch wasn’t even mine. It travelled towards Badani (Hemang) at long-on. I was stationed at long-off. Since the ball soared at a considerable height, I had the chance to go for it. As I ran I wasn’t sure whether I’d get close to the ball, let alone take the chance. It’s a metaphor for life. There are times we don’t know where we are headed, but we keep moving with an unshakeable belief and something changes at the last moment. That catch happened at the last nano-second."
Kaif, who is 37, could've played a few domestic seasons more but chosen not to. He talked about it and said, "Thought the time was right. Playing Ranji occupies five months every season. I’d been guiding raw talents in Andhra and Chhattisgarh. Now my children are growing – my son Kabir is six and daughter Iva is only a year old. My family needs me around."