India toured England in the summer of 2002. The tour began with the triangular NatWest ODI series, with Sri Lanka as the third team.
Following their historic home Test win over Australia the year before, India had lost the ODI leg of that series, 2-3.
Of their four overseas ODI series since then, they had won two (Zimbabwe and West Indies), leveled (2-2) in Sri Lanka and had been beaten comprehensively (1-3) in South Africa.
India had begun the process of building the nucleus of their squad for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
Along the way, in January 2002, they unearthed an exciting ODI talent in Mohammad Kaif during their home series against England.
Kaif went to England in June 2002, having played in all of India’s 11 ODIs since his debut. His
He had already produced a series-defining (
During the NatWest series, Kaif only contributed significantly in the first and last match before the final.
In the final at Lord’s, England posted a target of 326 for India to chase. India responded well with 103 for no loss in 14 overs when Sourav Ganguly was bowled for 60 (from 43 balls). Inside the next 10 overs, India lost 4 more wickets for just 43 runs. Kaif joined Yuvraj Singh with 179 required from 26 overs.
The duo absorbed pressure (of the fallen wickets) and built a significant partnership of 121 runs in 17.1 overs.
At the fall of Yuvraj’s wicket, India still needed 59 runs from 8.2 overs. After a partnership of 47 with Harbhajan Singh, Kaif joined Zaheer Khan briefly and saw India over the line by two wickets.
The celebrations that followed on and off the field are legendary in Indian cricket history.
Kaif’s “perfect impact” innings – an unbeaten 87 in 75 balls – checked all the
He was the highest impact batsman in the world (min. 15 ODIs) in that period.
3.9 petered out to 1.63.
He would not produce another
Perhaps due to leadership changes, perhaps due to attempted overhauls in the entire Indian setup, that winning moment remained but a glimpse into the potential of a big-match player who peaked too early and was never nurtured back to those giddying heights.
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.