13th July 2002 is remembered as the historic day in Indian Cricket history. On this day young Indian cricketers Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh created wonders and sealed an impossible looking win for Team India at the Lords’ against the home team England.
In the recent article of NDTV, Mohammad Kaif was quoted saying, “It’s the 14th anniversary of our famous NatWest Trophy win at Lord’s today (July 13). This is a day I will never forget, for it changed my life as an international cricketer forever. Nothing compares, just nothing, compares to the NatWest final.
I was a small-town UP boy trying to cement a place in a team full of heavyweights. I was anxious and hungry to prove my worth. It came at Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket. I played the most crucial 90 minutes of my cricket career and I played the role my captain Sourav Ganguly wanted of me.
I can never forget how Ganguly backed me ahead of the NatWest final. Ganguly preferred me and Yuvraj Singh in the playing XI because he wanted stronger legs on the field.
Ganguly was also careful about the balance of the team. Instead of an all-rounder, he wanted a batsman at No. 7. So I was preferred and Rahul Dravid kept wickets.
‘Nobody gave us a chance after England scored 325’
When England set us a winning target of 326, nobody gave us a chance. Having lost several finals before, we were also not sure if that we could pull it off this time. But Ganguly believed we could do it. That’s why he is a different captain – intelligent and always with that ‘yes-we-can’ attitude.
During the innings break, after we had our lunch, Ganguly wanted to have a quick chat. He set us a target – 90 without loss in the first 15 overs. He advised against panicking, wanted us to build partnerships and said the wicket was still full of runs. Dravid nodded in agreement. Sachin Tendulkar was rather quiet.
Ganguly and Sehwag gave us the start we wanted – 106 for one in 14.3 overs. Ganguly was out for 60 but he had given us a solid foundation. Then there was a collapse. We lost Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Dravid and Tendulkar adding only 32 runs.
Tendulkar was bowled by Giles for 14. I crossed him on my way to the middle. I wanted to meet his eyes, but when Tendulkar fails to deliver on a big day, he walks back looking down at the ground. He was clearly very disappointed with himself.
Tendulkar’s exit (146 for 5 in 24 overs) meant India had no chance to beat England. Even I felt that we had no chance whatsoever. So my first goal was to ensure that India did not end up losing by an embarrassing margin.
‘I wasn’t expected to win the match for India’
This was a chance to establish myself. Since nobody expected me to win this match, I was relatively under less pressure.
Ganguly told me that if I had scored 30 runs off 30 balls batting at No. 7, it would be equivalent to a century from an opener. I was wrong to think that we could smash our way to scoring 300-plus runs and beat England.
I was just happy to play second fiddle to Yuvraj, who was stroking the ball well and getting the boundaries. I was content on running my singles hard and just do the basics right. We had the overs to get the runs and our simple game plan was working.
Very soon I was getting the much-needed boundaries. When Yuvraj was out for 69 in the 42nd over, India still needed 59 runs. With the tailenders, I had to play the leadership role. We won with three balls remaining.”
Mohammad Kaif was also awarded the Man of the Match Award in NatWest Final for his match winning knock of 87 runs off just 75 balls.