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Kaif relishing his new role

Mohammad Kaif believes that his new batting position has given a fresh lease to his career and the wily youngster is happy to have justified the faith reposed on him.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2003 17:14 IST

Mohammad Kaif believes that his new batting position has given a fresh lease to his career and the wily youngster is happy to have justified the faith reposed on him by his captain.

The middle order batsman struggled to get the runs in the early stages of the recent World Cup but the team management's decision to promote him to the number four slot midway through the tournament seems to have worked wonders for his confidence.

And Kaif is now keen to repay the trust shown by his captain Sourav Ganguly by scoring runs consistently.

The promotion has given him the opportunity to settle down and build the innings and his unbeaten 95 off 103 balls in the TVS Cup triangular series match against South Africa yesterday speaks volumes of his new-found confidence

"I was waiting for such an innings for quite a while. It is a great feeling to have contributed to the team's cause and I hope to keep doing it more often," Kaif said.

Kaif knows that the number four position will provide him the chance of getting big knocks and also improve upon his statistical records which have not reflected his immense potential. He has a one-day aggregate of 1017 runs in 50 matches (41 innings) at an average of 31.78.

The stylish batsman may have missed what could have been his second one-day century yesterday, but the team-man that he is, Kaif feels that the interest of the team is more important than achieving personal milestones.

"Not getting the century does not disturb me. I am quite happy to do the job for my country. You play for the team not for yourself," he said.

Kaif is part of the young brigade which has injected the much-needed enthusiasm in Indian cricket. Kaif, alongwith Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra are seen as the future 'backbone' of the team.

Apart from his batting skills, the 22-year-old Kaif's electrifying fielding and superb running between the wickets have made him a real asset in the shorter version of the game.

It is these departments in which the team has seen a remarkable improvement in recent times and the young breed of cricketers have been largely responsible for this.

Kaif and his friend Yuvraj are also considered to be the best runners between the wickets and the mix-up between the two during yesterday's match against South Africa did come as a surprise.

"I have a very good understanding with Yuvraj but it is one of those things that can happen in a game. This is only the second time that the two of us were involved in a run-out," Kaif said.

"At that stage I was a little worried because Yuvraj was playing well and he is in good form. We needed him at that time. But (Dinesh) Mongia played a great knock which helped us get a big total," Kaif said.

Like any professional cricketer, Kaif feels the players have to adjust to the conditions at various venues and play according to the requirement.

"The conditions here are hot and humid and it is definitely not easy for the bowlers, but then you have to adjust," Kaif said.

The right-hander is now seen as a regular in the one-day squad having put a few impressive knocks in his new batting position.

Kaif's elevation to the senior national team has come the hard way and it was his consistent show at the junior level which eventually forced the selectors to take note of him and draft him into the senior team.

It was his showing in the Under-19 world Cup that brought him into national reckoning. He did not exactly fail in his debut Test against a rampaging South African side and has gone from strength to strength from there on.

As skipper of the victorious Indian under-19 side in the World Cup in Sri Lanka in January 2000, Kaif also proved himself to be a skilful captain. He came up through the ranks representing the under-19 team against Sri Lanka in 1999 and then playing with much success for the India A team on the tour of West Indies early in 2000.

First Published: Apr 14, 2003 17:14 IST