Former Indian batsman Mohammad Kaif feels he was rushed into the Test format as he was only 20 years old when he got the national call-up. Kaif had led the Under-19 team to glory in 2000 World Cup and he was the first Indian captain to do so. Subsequently, Kaif was at his best in the Challengers Trophy and thus it opened the Test doors for the Uttar Pradesh player.
Kaif made his Test debut against South Africa at M.Chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore in 2000. However, the right-hander didn’t have the best of starts as he could score only 12 and 23 in both the innings.
Kaif felt he was not ready to face the Proteas who had bowlers like Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Nantie Hayward and Jacques Kallis. Kaif was dismissed by Kallis in both the innings of his Test debut. In fact, there is no doubt that it was difficult to break into the Test side being a batsman in that era.
The Indian batting order possessed players like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly and thus it was difficult for any youngster to make the cut into the final XI.
“I was surprised at the Test call-up. Since it was India’s first Under-19 World Cup title victory, there was a lot of media hype. There was a Challenger tournament in which most of the Under-19 players got a chance to play. I had two scores in the 90s in back-to-back matches that I played, then I was named in the Indian Test side. But I think I was hurried into Test cricket, I was just 20 and to face someone like Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Nantie Hayward, they had some serious pace. It was a learning experience for me, just like a new swimmer is thrown into the deep and asked to help himself,” Kaif told Times of India.
“So to be honest, I think I was not ready to face that kind of pace, which I had never faced (before).
After not having an ideal debut, Kaif was dropped from the Test side. However, he was able to make a comeback into the Test side after two years but the right-hander could not cement his place.
On the other hand, Kaif scored 624 runs at an average of 32.84 in his Test career of 13 matches. The former Uttar Pradesh captain scored three fifties and one hundred in the red-ball version.
Kaif is well known for his 2002 Natwest Trophy final heroics against England when he scored an unbeaten 87 to help India chase 326. However, he could not seal his position in the Test team.
The right-hander scored 2753 runs in 125 ODI matches at an average of 32.01. Kaif was a live-wire on the field and he is regarded as one of the best ever Indian fielders.