Sourav Ganguly Ran and Jumped Onto me: Mohammad Kaif Recalls Natwest Trophy Final Celebrations

Cricketnext Staff
·4-min read

The most iconic match for the Indians will forever be the Natwest Trophy final at Lord's against England in 2002. Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh steered the team home when no one had expected them to.

Kaif, who also was Man of the Match, in that game, writes in a column for Indian Express, what had during the match.

"The first memory of that chase at Lord’s that comes to my mind is people walking out when I was walking in to bat. They felt the match was over as Sachin had got out. Later, I would find out that my family in Allahabad too had done the same. The movie Devdas was running at a nearby theatre and my father, who was a fan of Dilip Kumar, had taken the family to see the Shahrukh Khan starrer after Sachin fell. Don’t worry, I have forgiven them!"

He also mentioned, how Sourav Ganguly's words spurred him on. "It hadn’t started so well. I remember the scene in the dressing room just before we went out to chase. We were struggling to figure out how to chase big totals those days and there was a feeling of ‘here we go again’. The mood was low. John Wright, our coach, stood at one end and it was more a players’ meeting.

ALSO READ | Natwest Final 2002: When Sourav Ganguly's Team Chased Down Mammoth 326 Vs England

"We stood around as Sourav Ganguly spoke: “Don’t panic. We will just start well, try not to lose any wicket and take it on later.”

"Yuvraj and I were burning to make a name for ourselves, and we really wanted to do well. We had played together in youth teams and had an understanding. I remember the required rate never got over eight at any stage. He played his shots, I did what I do and runs started to come.

"The game started to slowly turn around."

There was a time, Kaif recalls, that Ganguly waved to him and wanted him to get off strike. But he did not heed attention to it, and clubbed Alex Tudor for a six.

"At one stage, [91 needed from 72 balls], I could see Ganguly waving his hands to catch my attention. He put his finger up, signalling that I should take a single and give the strike to Yuvraj. As any captain would do, he wanted to guide the youngsters in the middle. But I was in my zone: see the ball, react to it, hit it. I had to take my own call in the middle.

"Also, I wanted to make a name for myself. Show the world who I am.

"And so almost immediately after that message, when Alex Tudor was bowling, it was perhaps not even the length to pull but I instinctively went for it.

"As the ball flew into the stands, I told Yuvraj in some anger, “Bhai, hum bhi khelne aaye hain!” (I have also come to play)."

The most difficult part came when Yuvraj was dismissed, and Kaif was left to steer India home with the tail-enders.

"Ï told Harbhajan to play his game as I didn’t want to confuse anyone. But it was Bhajji who helped me at an important moment. I had slogged Paul Collingwood and the ball went off the inside edge to fine leg for two runs. Bhaji told me, “Kya kar raha hai, what are you doing? Run-a-ball now, look at the scorecard.” I thought, yes, he is right. I just needed to watch the ball, play the ball."

But somehow India managed to cruise through.

"I would forever remember what happened next. First Yuvraj ran out for a big hug. And then Ganguly, who had the shirt-off celebration on the balcony, ran and jumped onto me and we were both down on the ground. Rahul Dravid too was pumping his fist and celebrating. He doesn’t do that usually. Behind them, I could see Sachin Tendulkar. In those times, he would never come onto the ground after a match. But there he was that day, running on to the field, high-fiving me. It was a really special moment – some of these legends, who I had grown up watching, were now jumping and celebrating with me."