‘Fitness should be top priority for everyone’ - Mohammad Kaif, cricketer
Mohammad Kaif, star fielder and cricket wiz, will always be a legend in his own right. The well- known cricketer, who announced his retirement from all forms of competitive cricket recently, will now take on the role of assistant coach of the IPL Franchise, Delhi Daredevils, for the upcoming 2019 season. What else is he going to do post-retirement? What are his thoughts on women cricketers and why does he think fitness should be top priority for everyone? Read on…
Hailing from a family of cricketers, cricket has always been in Mohammed Kaif’s blood. Over time, he surpassed his father and his brother's achievements to become the first Test cricketer from Uttar Pradesh and has now been named assistant coach of the IPL Franchise Delhi Daredevils for the Indian Premier League season in 2019.
There are, however many more firsts associated with Kaif. He led India to the first title in the Under-19 World Cup in 2000 and led Uttar Pradesh to their first Ranji Trophy title in 2005-06. Whenever somebody talks about Kaif, the memories of his match-winning A-game at the Lord's Cricket Ground, comes to mind. He has played more than 13 Tests and 125 one-dayers and was also a force to reckon with in the domestic circuit.
Apart from the Indian cricket team, Kaif has also played for various counties like Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and many more and was part of the IPL-winning Rajasthan Royals. He also represented Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.
Fitness is of utmost importance for him and he follows a strict fitness regime all-year round. He is currently a commentator and presenter on television. Kaif is married to Pooja Yadav and they have two children, Kabir and Eva.
Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:
YSWeekender: How important is sports to you?
Mohammad Kaif: I go to the gym regularly where I do a lot of weight lifting. I realise I need to work on my upper body. My legs are very strong as I was good fielder in cricket and as I also used to play football. People have memories of me fielding even today. I was always fit and agile as I could run fast and save runs. But, since my legs are stronger than my upper body, I need to hit the gym.
I believe that fitness should be a priority for everyone and at every age. It teaches you how to live your life. I had the privilege of being fit from a young age and it has helped me all my life. Today, with so many people working in offices from 9am to 6pm, they really need to spend some time taking care of themselves.
YSW: What are your views on women cricketers?
MK: I think it is fantastic and great to see players like Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Jhulan Goswami and so many others who have inspired women to get into cricket. They are role models for women today and nowadays many of my female family members have become interested in the game and will be watching the T20 matches. I wish the women’s team great luck and I am happy that the focus is on cricket across the country.
YSW: Can you tell us how you got into cricket?
MK: I began playing cricket when I was 17 years old. I got interested in the game as my father was a cricketer too. I remember how he would take us for tournaments and I would watch him play. I would make friends with everyone there and I would also help them by passing the ball and other odd jobs. I would also love to watch my brother playing the game. The environment in our home was always linked to sports. My fondest memories are taking my kit and heading to the stadium to play cricket matches, sometimes travelling on my cycle to get there. How hard we worked! I loved spending time with my team mates and it was all about enjoying the game. I have played with the best known names in the game, like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and so many others. I was fortunate enough to play with them and some of the other finest cricketers in our country.
Nowadays, I see so many different faces and players. The pool of players has become bigger now and the formats have become shorter. Things have changed so much and the span of a cricketer’s life has become shorter. People come and go so fast.
YSW: Why did you decide to retire when you are still so fit and young?
MK: Yes, I am still fit but I have played cricket for almost 12 years and now I think I need to do more with my time. I have played with young boys and improved their raw talent. I have been captain and I have I have been a coach for youngsters. I have kept playing for the love of the game but I have realised that I needed to be free to pursue other things. I have two kids and I really do want to spend more time with my family. I also hope to start and institute for cricket one day. At the moment, I am very busy with so many things, including the motivational talks I give during my free time.
YSW: What do you teach in your motivational talks?
MK: I like to talk to people about my life as a cricketer. I like telling them about my journey from a small town and what it was like getting ahead. I had to work hard and on my own. I had push my limits to make a breakthrough. I share all these things with those who attend my talks.
YSW: What has cricket taught you?
MK: Cricket teaches you how to handle the ups and downs of life. One day, when you win you are on the top of the world but at other times you are not. So, you need to stay grounded. You should not be affected by the glamour or the emotions and learn to stay neutral. Another thing you need to learn to handle is the stress factor. You also need to stay disciplined by eating the right kind of food, being health conscious and not missing the gym.
My son sees me doing all these things and he is sure to follow my example. Even today, when he plays with me he says – ‘Papa see my abs.’ (laughs). Actions do speak louder than words.
YSW: You were in politics for a brief time. Are you planning to get into politics again?
MK: I did try to get into politics but it was a very last minute thing and it happened just by chance. But during that period, I really learnt a lot about life at the grassroot level. Instead of five star hotels, we travelled through the country and I got to learn about small towns and how to connect with people.
YSW: But no, I will not be getting into politics again. I want to participate in social causes but I will do so in other ways without getting into politics.
MK: What is your opinion about the glamour around cricket today?
I think all this glamour is both good and bad. When there is glamour around the game, there are more fans and more people come together to watch the game. It has changed the game for good as more and more folk come to enjoy the sport. Families talk about the game and there is a lot of respect for it.
YSW: What are your other interests?
I love to travel and I also love to spend time with my family. I like to read Hindi books and I enjoy reading bedtime stories and bonding with my children. I like going to the movies with my family and watching TV at home.
YSW: Among all the places that you have visited, which are your favourite ones?
MK: I love England and love playing cricket there. The air is so fresh and road travel is so good there. I like to travel by road in England as it is such a great experience.
YSW: What are your plans for the future?
MK: My long-term goal is getting into coaching. I want to coach young people in fielding as it is my USP. I like working with young minds and training youngsters.