‘Kya kar raha hai?’: Mohammad Kaif recalls how Harbhajan Singh shepherded him during the chase in 2002 Natwest Trophy final

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‘Kya kar raha hai?’: Mohammad Kaif recalls how Harbhajan Singh shepherded him during the chase in 2002 Natwest Trophy final
Mohammad Kaif and Harbhajan Singh. (Image Source: Twitter)

Last week on July 13, marked the eighteenth anniversary of India’s iconic 2002 Natwest Trophy win. In the tri-series competition held in England with Sri Lanka as the third side, India emerged victorious after being placed in a precarious situation in the final.

England captain Nasser Hussain and Marcus Trescothick’s respective tons made India’s task stiff as the hosts posted a target of 326.

After a quickfire start, India lost their way in the middle, losing five wickets for 146. Then, young turks Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif stitched a match-winning partnership of hundred plus runs.

Moreover, the thrilling match took another turn when Yuvraj was dismissed on 69, with a large chunk of job left to do for Kaif and the tailenders.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh did his bit by scoring a 13-ball 15 and shepherding Kaif during the chase who played a few rash shots. Now, Kaif has opened up to the advice dispensed by Bhajji during the high-octane historic run-chase.

“Then, suddenly, Yuvraj fell. I was in shock, now I had to do it with the tailenders but had no experience in dealing with them,” Kaif penned down in an article for The Indian Express.

“I remember I pulled a six off Ronnie Irani – again not really the length for it but I just reacted. Irani was someone who would bowl around 120 kmph but had the attitude of a fast bowler. We two had a bit going in that game, I think.”

“Ï told Harbhajan to play his game as I didn’t want to confuse anyone. But it was Bhajji who helped me at an important moment. I had slogged Paul Collingwood and the ball went off the inside edge to fine leg for two runs. Bhaji told me, “Kya kar raha hai, what are you doing? Run-a-ball now, look at the scorecard.” I thought, yes, he is right. I just needed to watch the ball, play the ball.”

“With 25 needed from the last four, Darren Gough, who Nasser trusted a lot, came on. I hit two fours in that over – over covers and to midwicket – but even then, I knew it wasn’t over. Then in one over Flintoff got Harbhajan and Anil Kumble, who fell to a wrong decision by Steve Bucknor. Off the last ball of the 48th, with six runs needed, Hussain had the long-on and long-off in the circle. I went for a big leg-side shot against Gough but it flew off the edge to the third man boundary. Even then, I wasn’t sure of the win.”

“You never know. Because if Zak got out, we had Nehraji. I can visualise him sitting in the dressing room, scratching his head. Zaheer played out two dot balls, they didn’t want me on strike. There was a fear of losing the game till the end. But off the third ball, we went for a single but there was an overthrow and a panic run. That was it,” Kaif concluded.

In the end, India won the match by a couple of wickets and more importantly clinched the 2002 Natwest Trophy with Kaif’s effort of 87 which came of 75 balls. It was the-then highest score chased down by a team batting second in ODI cricket.

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CATEGORY: Harbhajan Singh, India, Mohammad Kaif, News

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Shubro is an ardent fan of sports, be it cricket, soccer, or tennis, he has an eye for all. Meticulous cricket writer by the day and an avid FIFA mobile player by the night, his life revolves around sports. The goal is to trott around the globe and to spread happiness through his goofy sense of humour. Write to him at mukherjeeshubro@gmail.com.