Before the turn of this millennium, India’s fielding standards painted a sorry picture. Running gingerly, with hardly any motivation to throw themselves at the ball, the Indians were largely like a bunch of primary class students forced to do physical exercise in the hot sun.
There were just a handful of Indian fielders who could stay at par with the fast-improving ground fielding standards around the world.
Things took a turn for the better with the injection of fresh blood in the team, under the tutelage of Sourav Ganguly and John Wright. While the core of the team remained unchanged, several new players came in, attaching themselves as vital pieces to complete Team India’s jigsaw puzzle.
Mohammad Kaif managed to carve a niche for himself by revolutionising fielding in Indian cricket. He dived and jumped with gay abandon, clutching catches out of thin air and effecting direct hits from a mile, all of it concluding with his infectious smile.
Also read: 5 cricketers whose USP was their fielding
On the occasion of his 36th birthday, we rewind to some of Kaif’s best pieces of fielding in the Indian blue:
#5 Shaun Pollock’s run-out, 2006
This one goes back to the one-day series between India and South Africa, a lopsided tournament that took place exactly one decade back.
In the 36th over of the South African innings, Shaun Pollock nudged a Harbhajan Singh delivery to the vacant off side region in search of a run. Dhoni, stationed behind the stumps, ran like an ox, chasing the ball, even as Pollock covered half the pitch and encountered a strong no from the “I-am-not-budging” Justin Kemp at the other end.
As Dhoni managed to make ground in time, he rocketed a throw towards Mohammad Kaif, who had run from backward short leg till the stumps. The return was a bit awry, but it didn’t matter to Kaif, who dived to his right and collected the throw with one hand, directing it onto the stumps in one smooth motion.