‘Fame will not last if youngsters lose focus’ | india | Hindustan Times
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‘Fame will not last if youngsters lose focus’

In a freewheeling chat with G Krishnan, Mohammad Kaif reflects at the season gone by, his goals for the future and much more. Read on...

india Updated: Mar 22, 2008 02:38 IST
G Krishnan

It has been a rather satisfying season for Mohammad Kaif. First he led an unfancied Uttar Pradesh team to the runners-up spot in the Ranji Trophy, and then went one better with an equally inexperienced Central Zone in the Deodhar on Thursday.

It was a triumph many, including Kaif himself hardly expected to come this easy — Central claimed the title with a game in hand — especially with two of his premier bowlers out injured.

The domestic season almost over, Kaif will next be seen in the IPL for the Rajasthan Royals. In a freewheeling chat with the Hindustan Times, the right-hander reflects at the season gone by, his goals for the future and much more.

Excerpts —

How does winning the Deodhar Trophy title feel?
It's very satisfying. It's very pleasing when youngsters excel. It was vital that we begin the tournament with a win and carry on the momentum. And we did just that.

How did you handle a side most of which you were unfamiliar with?
It was tough. I didn't know where they batted, how they bowled. However, interacting with them and inputs from the coach (Abhay Sharma) and manager (Gyanendra Pandey) made my job easier.

Do you feel captaincy has hampered your chances of making a comeback to the Indian team?
I'm not sure. I have been leading various sides — India A, Rest of India, Uttar Pradesh and Central Zone and the Challengers right since I was dropped. Yes, captaincy can be tough, but I take it up as a challenge. My first job is to score runs captaincy comes second. I had a good season, scoring nearly 1200 runs and enjoying success as a captain.

How did you cope after being dropped from the national side?
It was difficult, but I've learnt to accept it. The sad part in India is when you are dropped, you don't know the reasons and the areas you need to improve. New people come and expect different roles. I have always tried to score runs, help my side win and knock at the selectors' door.

UP seem to be developing into a very good side under your leadership. What would you attribute this turnaround to?
I'm very happy. When I took charge, my aim was to start winning matches. We found out areas to work. We have players like Raina, Piyush, Praveen, RP, Praveen Gupta. We formed a very good team. In three years, we played the Ranji Trophy final twice.

Lots of money flowed in for the recent U-19 World Cup winners, and the Indian Premier League contracts followed. How important is it for the juniors to stay focussed on their game? Did you face this situation?
When we won, in 2000, there was not that much money. We got recognition and that egged me on. We were absorbed into the National Cricket Academy and played the Challengers. Though things have changed now, this fame will not last if these youngsters lose focus and forget their responsibilities. They know cricket comes first. If they don't perform, money and fame will not last.

Is it beginning to get increasingly difficult for you to maintain the fielding standards you had set?
Yes, it is a big challenge. It is all in the mind. You are always challenging yourself. You need to be motivated and keep thinking how much you want to do for yourself.

How do you look at India's fielding standards today?
It is improving all the time but it's not yet exceptional. All are decent fielders who can move around.