Mohammad Kaif on Greg Chappell: The Aussie coach destroyed my career
Why did India’s best fielder Mohammad Kaif never make a comeback in the Indian team? He scored unbeaten 87 to notch up a historic NatWest trophy win in 2002 chasing a target of 326 at Lord’s in England. Kaif also won the U-19 World Cup being the captain of the Indian team. But, an innocent soul and talent was destroyed by Greg Chappell. Kaif failed to tolerate Chappell, so never made a comeback, as per the former UP captain.
The one time best fielder in India opened his heart to assert his sorrow for the first time after nine years of his last ODI for India in 2006. Kaif said, as the era of Sourav Ganguly and John Right got over, the Aussie coach Chappell created an atmosphere where the players were backbiting about each other rather than focusing on their performances.
Kaif said he might not drop from the team if he would have been more expressive about his approach to the game. But, his lack of communication skills made him suffer.
“When managements change, so do attitudes. The decision-makers who followed Sourav Ganguly and John Wright – coach Greg Chappell and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar – didn’t have the same confidence in me. I came under pressure and failed. Looking back, I should’ve spoken to them more, rather than just focus on making runs. I suffered due to my reserved nature,” Kaif admitted.
Kaif said he was uncommunicative that also hugely affected his career. He said he used to think that only concentrating on batting and fielding would ensure his place in the team. But, the 34-year-old said, Chappell made him to lose his confidence, even in his brilliant fielding skills. “He questioned my fielding technique and it left me so confused that I dropped a catch in the very next game,” Kaif revealed.
During the era of Chappell nobody used to talk with him, he was feeling alone. Kaif even said that he tried to be, “selfish while playing for India. I hardly had any friends.”
Confused Kaif even asked some of his Ranji teammates how could he make a comeback, that also made his case worse.
“To make it worse, I started asking everyone what I needed to do to make a comeback. Interestingly, everyone else who was dropped after me made a comeback, except me,” he said.
But, his return to domestic cricket had made him depressed as after receiving the limelight while playing for India it was hard for any player to play in domestic cricket. However, things started changing for Kaif when he got married, “I got married, opened up a lot more and made friends, and did things for them so that they would be around when I needed them. I wasn’t ready to play for India when I was picked first, and I didn’t deserve to be dropped when I was,” Kaif asserted.
But, these awkward experienced gave a lesson to Kaif. Now, he does not want the same thing with any junior cricketer. He now encouraged everybody to express them. “The culture in the Andhra team is completely different to that in the UP team. There, I’ve handled a Praveen Kumar and a RP Singh. They don’t hold back their words to a batsman. I’m trying to make these boys more expressive too. I encourage everyone to speak. Communication is my endeavor while leading the side, and it’d be the same when I coach one too.”
“Unlike what happened to me, I’d communicate with a player on why he was dropped, and what he needs to do to come back,” he said.
Kaif, who last year left Uttar Pradesh to play for Andhra Pradesh, has confronted another problem in the form of language. Kaif, whose first language is Hindi while Andhra cricketers speak in Telegu, failed to communicate with his bowlers as a result, many teams in the last season scored big innings against them. But, sorted out this problem communicate with senior cricketers in English and they translate his words in Telegu.
“I struggled in my first game. The opposition ended up scoring 600-plus, as I tore my hair out trying to communicate with my bowlers, some of whom had no clue what I was trying to tell them. Then, I found a solution: I would speak to some of the seniors in English, and they would then communicate my instructions to the bowlers. The results started to show,” Kaif said.
*The quotes are from Cricbuzz/ToI