IL_Kaif_Art

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 batting impact of 3.28 from the 9 innings he batted in made him India’s highest impact batsman in that period (min. 6 matches).

He had already produced a series-defining ( SD ) performance in Zimbabwe just three months prior. With India down 1-2 in the series, he had produced high impact batting performances in the last two matches to win it for India, 3-2.

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 batting impact boxes – a significant proportion of runs scored in the match, pressure of falling wickets, high run-chase, partnerships and high strike-rate impact. The fact that all of this came in a final, made his innings a series-defining one – the second of his seven-month-long ODI career at that point.

He was the highest impact batsman in the world (min. 15 ODIs) in that period.

3.9 petered out to 1.63.

Kaif’s career batting impact peaked at the end of the NatWest series.

He would not produce another series-defining performance over the next 101 completed matches he played for India. Even though he would go on to produce four batting performances – one of them against New Zealand in the World Cup a year later – of higher impact than that innings at Lord’s, none would be as significant in shaping India’s ODI legacy as that winning moment at Lord’s.

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.

 

 

Gokul Chakravarthy

 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.