Not often does one find a situation where a cricketer who has played more than 100 ODIs tries to make a comeback to the national team after a gap of seven years.
But at 32, Mohammad Kaif finds himself at this very situation as the national selectors decided to give him one last shot and picked him in the India ‘A’ squad that is set to play West Indies ‘A’ in two unofficial Test matches.
While Kaif last played for India against South Africa in an ODI in Nov 2006, the middle-order batsman has been a constant force to reckon with in the domestic circuit, plying his trade for Uttar Pradesh. And he feels that the opportunity has come at the right time as he has learnt from the mistakes that he made in the past and has also matured as a player.
“I wouldn’t say I am shocked by the news of selection as I have been performing for UP in the domestic circuit, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise for me. To be honest, I have made a lot of mistakes in the past and I have learnt from them. I would say that there were a few chinks in my batting as well as my shot selection which I have worked on. Also, I feel that I have become mentally stronger as a player, so I am definitely in the right frame of mind to get another shot at the India cap,” he told Mail Today.
Kaif has seen his compatriots go ahead and cement their places in the Indian team while he continued to sweat it out in the domestic circuit.
But the batsman feels that motivation has never been an issue for him.
“For someone who knows nothing but how to play cricket, motivation is the last issue. I have been playing since the age of 12, so I ate, slept and drank cricket all my life. But yes, I have definitely calmed down and started making correct decisions -- something which I have realised myself. Moreover, I expect very little and look to do what I am good at and that is going out there in the middle and score runs."
“Even now, whether I get picked or not for the Indian team isn’t something that I will be bothered about when I join the ‘A’ team. My aim will be to prepare 100 per cent before I go out to face the West Indies bowlers. I will be more interested to look at their strengths and weaknesses rather than thinking about impressing the selectors,” he said.
While Kaif isn’t getting any younger, he feels that a look at the dominant Australian sides in the last two decades would clarify any doubt critics had of age being a factor in his selection.
“In the recent times, thanks to the retirement of the top Australian players, we see a lot of youngsters in the team. But if you look at the Australian XI when they dominated world cricket, most of the players were past 30 and I feel that as batsmen, you are at your peak post 30. So I don’t see any reason why age should be an issue for me. Also, I have always believed in working on my fitness so I am all geared up,” he said.
Kaif might have donned the Indian jersey many times, but he feels that he will still have butterflies when he goes out to the middle against West Indies ‘A’.
“I think I will definitely have some butterflies (laughs). But rest assured that I will be better prepared as I take guard,” he signed off.