‘I felt like Amitabh Bachchan that day’: Mohammad Kaif recalls celebrations in Allahabad after 2002 Natwest Series heroics
In a column for The Indian Express, Kaif recalled the celebrations that he saw in his hometown of Allahabad after he returned home.
The 2002 Natwest Series final between India and England on July 13 at Lord’s is remembered for more than one reasons. It was on this day when captain Sourav Ganguly took off his shirt to celebrate India’s win. It was on this day when Indian Cricket team, which was recognised by big names such as Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, found two new batting heroes to cheer for - Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh. And it was on this day when India chased down a target of 326 to beat Nasser Hussain-led England side at Lord’s to win the trophy.
The modern day fans might see the target of 326 as an easy one to chase down. But at the time, any score beyond 300+ was considered to be a mighty huge task. Kaif and Yuvraj found themselves in the middle after India had lost half their side, and the duo went on to stitch a 121-run partnership.
After Yuvraj fell for 69, Kaif carried on and took India to a thrilling win. The batsman remained unbeaten on 87 in 75 balls, as India beat England by two wickets. In a column for The Indian Express, Kaif recalled the celebrations that he saw 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 said 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.