Top-5 innings by Mohammad Kaif
Just a few hours ago, veteran Indian batsman Mohammad Kaif finally called it a day from all forms of competitive cricket. The retirement announcement comes on the exact same day when, sixteen years ago, the man himself played a crucial role in the NatWest series finals against England, the match that Kaif will be remembered for, for his brilliant innings.
Kaif played his first game for India in a Test match against South Africa in 2000. He played in just twelve tests more throughout the length of his international career. He debuted in ODIs in 2002 against England at Kanpur and went on to play a total of 125 ODIs throughout his career.
As for his domestic career, he has played for Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh, winning the Ranji trophy once with the former team. He also made a mark in a few IPL games before 2012, where he has played for the likes of Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals.
With the departure of one of the pioneers of Indian cricket in the 2000s, let us take a look at some of the best knocks he has played.
#1. 87 not out (75 balls) vs England, Final: NatWest Tri-Series Trophy, London, 13 July 2002.
India are widely regarded as the masters of chase these days but things were not very easy even a decade earlier. India's lack of ability in the chasing sector had acted as a demon on many occasions, with the team losing several high-profile matches as a result.
When England compiled 325/5 at the end of 50 overs having won the toss and electing to bat first in the finals of the NatWest Trophy at Lord's, no one expected a miracle to happen and for India to win. Centuries from Nasser Hussain and Marcus Trescothick almost made sure that England ran away with the title, it was more-or-less just a question of how early it would be.
Sehwag and Ganguly gave India a good start, stitching a century partnership for the first wicket. But as the duo returned to the pavilion, India suffered an immediate downfall, with Sachin Tendulkar, Dinesh Mongia, and Rahul Dravid failing to create a mark as the score now read 146/5 at 24 overs. On the one end was Yuvraj Singh, and Kaif came out to replace the dismissed Tendulkar at the other end. With needing 180 runs from 26 overs, what followed was history.
A rare partnership ensued between the two youngsters, as they thrust and parried their way through the wilderness, eyes set on nothing else but the target. Eventually, Yuvraj fell and so did Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, but Kaif stood firm on his end. Slowly and steadily, with Zaheer Khan as partner, he steered the team to the shores of victory, an impossible one at that, with three balls to spare. His individual score read 87 not out off 75 balls, including six fours and two towering sixes.
As Ganguly memorably celebrated the win by taking off his shirt and waving it around, India had a new hero in Mohammad Kaif, who was playing just his 14th innings in limited-over internationals. He was also awarded the Man-of-the-Match.