Mohammad Kaif - An Ace Cricketer and a Fitness Enthusiast
The Second Innings
Words like athleticism, agile and leadership come straight into your mind once talk about Mohd Kaif. Coming from the family of cricketers, cricket was always in Kaif’s blood but he surpassed his father Mohammad Tarif and brother Saif’s achievement to become the first Test cricketer from a large state like Uttar Pradesh.
There are many firsts associated with Mohammad Kaif apart from being the first Test cricketer from UP. He led India to the first title in the Under-19 World Cup in 2000. He led Uttar Pradesh to their first Ranji Trophy title in 2005-06. Whenever somebody talks about Kaif, the memories of Lord’s win in 2002 come straight away to the mind. He had the talent to play more than 13 Tests and 125 One-dayers. Once he was ignored after India’s forgettable tour of South Africa, the selectors never gave him another chance to prove himself despite he kept reminding them with substantial scores at domestic circuit across all formats. However, there’s more to Kaif than that Lord’s innings. He has made an immense contribution in making Uttar Pradesh a force to reckon with in the domestic circuit.
Being a regular in the Indian One-day team from 2002-2006, Kaif wasn’t playing much of domestic cricket in that period. However, when India was involved in twin Test series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the 2005-06 season, Kaif got the opportunity to play Ranji Trophy. He transformed the struggling Uttar Pradesh unit to winning one.
It was Kaif who turned things around for UP with his leadership qualities. UP had the experience of Rizwan Shamshad, Gyanendra Pandey, and Ashish Winston Zaidi. They had the exuberance of youth in Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Shivakant Shukla and Ravikant Shukla. However, they needed somebody who could bind them in a cohesive unit. Kaif did exactly that.
Kaif led from the front in both semifinal and final to help UP lift their maiden Ranji crown. He scored 478 runs at an average of 79.66. UP entered the final twice in next three years that saw the transition period in UP cricket where experienced players like Shamshad, Pandey, and Zaidi called it quits. Kaif again led by example. The likes of RP Singh, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Sudeep Tyagi went on to play for the country. Kaif had shown them the way. In fact, he had picked the likes of Bhuvaneshwar and Tyagi from the nets.
Natwest victory was the milestone in Kaif’s career. The final, in many ways laid the foundation of the modern Indian One-day side. With this fearless performance and an emphatic win to clinch the trophy, India made headlines world over. Kaif and Yuvraj had put up a beautiful exhibition of big hitting and quick running between the wickets to put on a massive 121 run partnership for the sixth wicket. That performance made Kaif a national hero, he has rightfully adjudged the Man of the match for his magnificent knock as India managed to achieve the then unthinkable target of 326.
Kaif had already left an impact with his performances for India in the Under-19 World Cup. Led by Kaif, the side that included the likes of Yuvraj, Ajay Ratra, and Reetinder Sodhi lifted the U-19 World Cup of 2000 in Sri Lanka. Owing to his great athletic and throwing skills on the field with unmatched fielding talent, Kaif made his Test debut in the very same year against South Africa at an age of 20. This was a time when the Indian Test squad boasted of legends like Sachin, Dravid, and Laxman and breaking into the team was a task in itself.
Whenever he was given the chance, Kaif proved himself in Tests. He played a match-saving knock of 91 against England in Nagpur in 2006. However, he was dropped after his stellar performance. The same year, he had the second-best average during the West Indies tour after Rahul Dravid. He scored a brilliant unforgettable 148* against West Indies at Gros Islet (W.I) in 2006. Unfortunately, it turned out to be his final Test Series. However, he was fighting for the place in the Indian middle order with legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.
Apart from the Indian cricket team, Kaif has also played for various teams like Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, India Red, Leicestershire, Rajasthan Cricket Association President's XI, Uttar Pradesh. He was part of the IPL-winning Rajasthan Royals. He also represented Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.
In the later part of his career, Kaif left Uttar Pradesh to join Andhra as a professional. He also played a couple of season with newest entrants in domestic cricket Chhattisgarh. He led Chhattisgarh to a historic victory against Tripura in their very first match. Kaif always wanted to share his experience with the young players while doing something new, something fresh. He always saw in their eyes, what they want to become. It was the same look which he had when he was playing under-19. For the star fielder, fitness is of utmost importance. Considered as a live wire on the field, Mohammad Kaif is also a fitness enthusiast. He follows a strict fitness regime and does not ditch the gym regardless of the time and place he is in.
Kaif is currently the panelist and one of the leading commentators and presenters. Kaif has 1.1 Million followers on Twitter and 213K followers on Instagram, he uses this tool to connect with his loyal fan base on social, political, economic and world issues. Owing to his supreme fitness and clean image on and off the field, he is now gearing up to get his 'Influencer' hat on and will be a major draw for lifestyle brands.
Kaif is married to Pooja Yadav, whom he met at a party through common friends in 2005 and found a liking for each other. After dating for four years, they decided to tie the knot through a simple court marriage on March 25, 2011, followed by a wedding reception in the presence of their close friends and family members. In the midst of juggling both their demanding careers, they love being hands on parents to their two adorable kids, Kabir and Eva. Parenting for them is all about the details and they believe that, 'child is truly the father of man. Kaif and Pooja both loves travelling and are big foodies as well.
Pooja found her calling in the field of communication through live events. She has been a corporate show host/master of ceremonies for more than 10 years. During this time, she has hosted over 700 shows across industries in India as well as overseas, and has had the privilege of working with all the top brands and corporates. She thrives on the energy of live shows and loves what she does, representing brands through the live events format and meeting people from all walks of life. She has quite a few big corporate events in her kitty. She now intends to build a corporate training module, wherein she and Kaif will jointly hold sessions and workshops for corporate entities, students, and others on team building, leadership and life skills.