Echoes of 2002 Lord's triumph in India's Brisbane glory

Mohammad Kaif (right), captain Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh celebrate their historic 2002 Natwest Series final win. (Twitter)
Mohammad Kaif (right), captain Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh celebrate their historic 2002 Natwest Series final win. (Twitter)

Dubai - Kaif believes the injury-ravaged India’s epic comeback win in the recent four-Test series against Australia could herald a new dawn for the team


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Fri 22 Jan 2021, 11:46 PM

When Mohammad Kaif walked out to bat at Lord’s with India in dire straits, losing five big wickets (including Sachin Tendulkar) for 146 while chasing 326 against England in the 2002 Natwest Series final, no one expected the then 21-year-old batsman from the cricketing backwaters of Allahabad to script one of one-day cricket’s greatest comeback wins of all time.

“Even my parents switched off the TV after Sachin got out and went to watch Shah Rukh Khan’s Devdas because they had lost all hope after Sachin’s wicket. They didn’t even watch their own son’s batting,” Kaif revealed several years after his heroics.

Kaif’s 75-ball unbeaten 87 from the number seven position in the batting order and his partnership with Yuvraj Singh (69 off 63 balls) not just earned India a dramatic win, but it also changed the team’s approach to chasing 300 plus totals in the 50 overs format.

Eighteen years later, nobody expected the Indian Test team to bounce back after being bowled out for their lowest score — 36 — in the second innings of the first Test against Australia and captain Virat Kohli returned home on paternity leave.

But in what was arguably the most dramatic turnaround in the history of Test cricket, India did the unthinkable as they went on to win the four-Test series, despite losing several regular players to injuries.

Now Kaif believes the injury-ravaged India’s epic comeback win Down Under could herald a new dawn for the team when it comes to winning Test rubbers on a regular basis outside Asia.

“Yes, definitely,” Kaif told Khaleej Times over phone from Mumbai, when asked if there were echoes of their Lord’s spirit in India’s stunning win over Australia. “We have shown the depth. We have won the series without our main bowlers. It’s definitely one of the biggest wins, especially because of the circumstances, senior players getting injured, the way they lost the first Test after getting all out for 36, which was the lowest total.

“With all this and Kohli coming back, with Ajinkya Rahane as the stand-in captain and new players coming in, we will remember this for a very, very long time.”

With only three Indian players managing to feature in all four Tests of an injury-ravaged campaign, Kaif doffed his hat to Rahane for his composure in the middle of an unprecedented crisis.

“In every single game, India had been behind, but somehow they found ways to come back. And Rahane has done so well as captain because four-five players were making their debuts under his captaincy and to beat Australia in Gabba for a 2-1 series win, it’s incredible,” Kaif said.

But the former middle-order batsman says batting needs to click if India want to make winning a habit in overseas conditions.

“To win overseas, people talk about taking 20 wickets, but you have to score runs,” he said.

“We made 324 runs on the last day against the best bowling attack in the world at the Gabba where Australia had not lost since 1988.

“So you have to bat well in overseas tours. India had not done that in the past. India went to South Africa and England in the last two-three years and they did not bat well even though our bowlers were taking 20 wickets. We lost those series because we didn’t bat well.”

Finally, Kaif said the key to Rishabh Pant’s success in the Test series was in his patient to wait for his moment.

“Not being part of the ODI and T20 teams, he had to wait for his turn,” said Kaif who had worked with the wicketkeeper-batsman during his stint as the Delhi Capitals assistant coach in the 2020 IPL.

“When he got the chance (in second Test), he was fearless, but he was also smart. In the Sydney Test, if he had played for one more hour, the result would have been different because the way he was playing, he would have changed the game!”

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