The 2002 Natwest series final between India and England is something that every cricket enthusiast would remember. It not only marked a revolutionary change in the Indian cricket, but also saw some emerging players that led us to bonging the ODI cup home. One of them was Mohammad Kaif.
Apart from the iconic shirt-wave by the then Captain Sourav Ganguly, it was this day when Indian cricket team was finally recognised by names like – Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh – amid the renowned lot of Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, and more.
We modern day fans would see a total of 326 as easily chased target but believe us when we say, at that time scoring anything beyond 300+ was considered to be a mighty huge task. Especially when you have a team as strong as England led by the ace Nasser Hussain.
Kaif and Yuvraj found themselves in the middle of the match after India had lost all their batting maestros, and the duo went to stitch a terrific 121-run partnership. After Yuvraj gave away his wicket for 69 runs, Kaif awakened his aggressive side and carried on the match only to bring the ODI cup home. The batsman remained unbeaten 87 in 75 balls, as the visitors defeated the hosts by two wickets.
Recently in an interview, Kaif recalled the celebrations he witnessed in his hometown of Allahabad after he returned home.
“Back home in Allahabad, once I returned, I couldn’t handle the celebrations. I was a shy person but people kept coming to my home. Mummy was serving tea snacks to everyone all the time. The media attention too was different.
“They would follow me everywhere. I loved to fly kites at the bank of the Yamuna and they would be there too, saying, ‘Look, Kaif ne aaj patang udayi (Kaif flew kites today!)”. Arre! I have been flying kites daily from childhood. It took me a while to understand all those reactions,” he recalled.
“I remember another special image. When I returned home to Allahabad, I was put on an open-jeep procession. It took us nearly three-four hours to travel the five-six km to our home. People lined up on the roads. Garlands, chants, happy faces. When I was a kid, I had seen Amitabh Bachchan in an open jeep after he had won an election in my hometown. That day, I felt like Amitabh Bachchan,” the 35-year-old added.
Kaif further mentioned that the win changed Indian cricket. “That win changed Indian cricket to an extent. It showed us we could chase big scores, it showed us we could win big finals – that’s one of the reasons Indian fans remember it a lot as this was a big tournament win at Lord’s after the 1983 World Cup final,” Kaif wrote.
“I remember the series in Pakistan later, where the scores were consistently over 300 but we were never fazed in the dressing room. There was a sense of calm and belief. That I think came after the Natwest Trophy win,” he added.
The image of those last two winning runs by Mohammad Kaif and Zaheer Khan with their hands up in the air will be etched in every cricket enthusiast’s mind forever. Have a little glimpse of the former Indian all-rounder’s batting in the 2002 Natwest Trophy series here.
Read more such massively-hit content on Mad Over Cricket.