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A new star on the horizon

Brilliant cricketing shots played by Mohammad Kaif catapulted India to an astounding victory Saturday July 13, when it nearly seemed that India was going to face rout.

India defiantly garnered the second-highest total in one-day international history to clinch the NatWest Series final at Lord’s in London. Ace cricketers, Yuvraj Singh (69) and Mohammad Kaif (87 not out), together batted an impressive 121 runs and turned the game on its head. India required 326 runs to beat England.

India slowly paced towards an imminent defeat when it was 146 for 5 wickets. It was a nervous moment for the Indians when Sachin Tendulkar was bowled out by Ashley Giles for just 14. But Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh refused to give in and decided to play defiantly in the face of intense pressure, even when the run rate moved about eight an over.

An elated Mohammad Saif, Kaif’s brother, remarked, "He played proper cricketing shots and made India win. He has proved that besides being quality Test material, he is also a very good One-day player."

Kaif, undoubtedly, emerged as India’s new sporting hero. "I am happy my son has done the nation proud," said Kaiser Jahan, his mother at the family home in Allahabad.

India’s win had its own tense and nervous moments for Kaif’s parents. Before success came India’s way, his parents had got disheartened. "When the top five batsmen departed, victory seemed unlikely and, unable to bear the pressure, we decided to go and watch Devdas (latest Bollywood movie) though Honey (Kaif) was about to come on to the crease," said his father Mohammad Tarif. "I am a heart-patient and I generally avoid watching when Honey is at the crease. Also, we feel there is a jinx -- whenever we sit to see him play, he gets out early," he added.

Currently riding the crest of success, Mohammad Kaif was born in Allahabad on December 1, 1980, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. He is the middle-order right handed batsman. 

Earlier, Kaif performed excellently for the Indian ‘A’ team on the tours of Los Angeles and West Indies. "The highpoint in my career came when India won the U-19 World Cup, under my captaincy, in Sri Lanka in January 2000. However, the icing on the cake, so to say, was my selection in the Indian team for the first Test match against South Africa," Kaif reminisces.

"I started playing cricket when I was 12 years old. I joined Kanpur Hostel, even though I was born in Allahabad, as the facilities at Kanpur are better. My first breakthrough came when I was selected for the Youth World Cup in England (during 1996) which we won easily, beating Pakistan in the final. I continued to perform well and later, I was picked for the U-19 world Cup in South Africa. These, I would say were my early breakthroughs," said Kaif. 

Providing more details about his experience and views regarding cricket, he said, "I have been playing first class cricket since 1998 and got a century in my second match against Haryana. I think that international cricket is real hard to play, you have to concentrate and work hard in every department, be patient and wait for the loose ball to score runs. This is real cricket and if you are good enough, you need to succeed here. It is very difficult to get a chance in the Indian middle order."

Incidentally, Kaif’s is a cricketing family as such. His father Mohammad Tarif had represented his state Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy. His elder brother Mohammad Asif runs a cricket academy in Allahabad. His other brother Mohammad Saif is a member of the ONGC cricket team. Mohammad Kaif is the youngest of the siblings and is the fortunate one to bring real honour to his family and laurels for his nation.

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