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Monday, June 12, 2006

Kaif's coming of age

Mohammad Kaif finally got a Test hundred. Whew. Here's a guy who has been on the cusp of the Test side for a while now, but who has had to sit and watch other more favorable batsmen get chance after chance even though coming up short. But on the second day of the St Lucia Test against West Indies, Kaif took his career by the reins and got to the landmark.

Impressive about this particular innings was how straight he played. Competent against both the quicks and the spinners, Kaif used his feet well to move down the track and meet the ball. His running between the wickets was good and together with Rahul Dravid he forced the scoring rate.

Everyone will remember his awesome Natwest innings back in the summer of 2002, but maybe not so many his maiden ODI hundred in his next match, against Zimbabwe in the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka. That was an innings in which he bettered his famous 87* at Lords. believe it or not. Batting at the No.7 spot, he hit an unbeaten 111 from 112 balls and spared India's blushes by helping them to 288. The match was won by 14 runs in the end, and India would go on to share the trophy with the hosts after rain played spoilsport in two aborted finals, but Kaif's role in setting all that up was immense.

A chalky performance in his first English county stint, with Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, and later Leicestershire, and a horror run in the 2005/06 season, came to an end with some good scores in the ODIs against West Indies, and then this hundred. There was something fulfilling about watching him in this match, the way he batted and ran and partnered his team-mates.

Kaif needs to be in the Test side, for he brings some enthusiasm to proceedings. His fielding is exemplary and he is definitely a motivator. He hasn't been a permanent fixture in the Test side, but should have been following his crucial 91 in the first Test against England at home. He was dropped for the remaining two Tests in favor of a far-from-positive VVS Laxman. Sad to see such treatment being meted out to such a valuable player. This hundred will do wonders to his confidence and he should stay on in the side. Hats off to this UP kid.

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