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Exclusive! Kaif: 'You can't keep away from politics'

March 13, 2014 17:12 IST

'You can't keep away from politics'

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Harish Kotian

'The thought of joining politics did not depend on the IPL auction.'

'The Congress is a national party and you get a lot of freedom when you work for it. There is not much interference in decision-making and that was one of the reasons I considered joining the party.'

Former India cricketer Mohammad Kaif tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian in an exclusive interview why he has retired from cricket and joined politics.

Mohammad Kaif is best remembered for his heroic partnership with Yuvraj Singh which saw India successfully chase down an unlikely 326 and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the 2002 NatWest series final against England.

The Allahabad-born cricketer, who played 125 One Day Internationals and 13 Tests between 2000 and 2006, helped steer India to many victories over the years.

The 33 year old, who only a week ago was playing domestic cricket for Uttar Pradesh, has joined the Congress party and will fight the Lok Sabha election from Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh, a constituency once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru and his sister Vijayalaxmi Pandit.

The Congress party has not won Phulpur since 1984, and Kaif is pulling out all stops to emerge triumphant.

Kaif tells Rediff.com's about his plans.

How come, politics all of a sudden?

I always had it in mind to get into politics.

I come from Phulpur district in Allahabad, and I want to do something for the people there.

For the last couple of years I was thinking of getting into politics, but was waiting for the right moment. I think it is the right time now!

Please click NEXT for more chit-chat with Kaif...


Image: Mohammad Kaif, left.
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

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'Seeing the way the Congress functions, its ethics, it was an easy decision'

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Harish Kotian

Is your cricket career over?

Yes. From now on, I will be full-time in politics. But if I get some time after serving the people, then I will definitely try and play cricket.

My first priority will always be politics.

Till last week you were playing cricket for Uttar Pradesh. When did you get interested in politics?

The interest was always there. For me, politics means serving the people and society.

I believe the time has come for me to do that.

And why the Congress?

It is a national party and you get a lot of freedom when you work for it.

There is not much interference in decision-making and that was one of the reasons I considered joining the party.

Seeing the way the Congress party functions, its ethics, it was an easy decision.

Also, for as long as I can remember, my family has always been pro-Congress.

Phulpur has history attached to it.

I know Phulpur is an important constituency. Big leaders have been elected from here, including Jawaharlal Nehru.

So, if you have grown up there, you can't keep yourself away from politics.

Please click NEXT for more chit-chat with Kaif...


Image: Mohammad Kaif.
Photographs: Arko Datta

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'Politics was on my mind for some years'

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Harish Kotian

The Congress has not won the Phulpur seat since 1984. Do you feel any pressure?

There is always pressure in any field, whether it is politics, cricket or the corporate world.

The good thing about pressure is that it pushes you to do better.

My main aim is to perform, which is by understanding the needs of the people and serving them.

I came from a small town and went on to play for the country. Now it is time to do something for the people here.

I want to build a base here so that more and more kids can get the opportunity to take up cricket.

Did Rahul Gandhi convince you to enter politics?

I have always been in touch with Rahul Gandhi. I know him since 2004.

When the Indian team was touring Pakistan that year, the whole Gandhi family was there to watch the match; that is where I met him for the first time.

We kept meeting thereafter at some function or the other, but I was playing cricket and there was no thought of getting into politics.

Later I did speak to him about politics.

I was quite impressed by the way he functioned; I also liked the way he has inspired the youth of this country to enter politics.

So politics was on my mind for some years, but in the last couple of months things moved faster after meeting senior Congress leaders.

Please click NEXT for more chit-chat with Kaif...


Image: Mohammad Kaif, right, with Sohail Tanvir in the IPL.
Photographs: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

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'It will be good for Indian politics if sportspeople come in'

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Harish Kotian

You were snubbed at this year's IPL auction. Did that play a part in your decision to join politics?

The thought of joining politics did not depend on the IPL auction.

Fortunately, everything fell into place in the last couple of months.

Sportspersons like Bhaichung Bhutia and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore have joined politics. Is it a good thing?

It will be good for Indian politics if sportspeople come in, because of the way sportspersons live and the values they follow.

A sportsman sees a lot of ups and downs in life and does a lot of sacrifices to achieve his goal.

For a cricketer coming from a small town to go on and play for the country is a big achievement, because he does not have a platform to push him; that is what makes him mentally strong.

A sportsman has to work harder than people in other fields because it takes a lot to represent your country. So that mindset helps in every walk of life.

It is a very good thing for the future of our country that a lot of sportspersons are joining politics.

Please click NEXT for more chit-chat with Kaif...


Image: Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia recently joined the Trinamool Congress.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'Our bowling has become our weak link'

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Harish Kotian

You have lived in Allahabad all your life and given the people a lot of joy through your cricket. Will that be an advantage in the election?

I belong to Allahabad, I was born and brought up there and my family is settled there. I have a lot of friends staying there, including some who have played with me.

The time has come for me to give back to the people in Phulpur and make life better for everyone there.

What has gone wrong for the Indian team?

Every team goes through a phase where things don't work for them.

There is a big question over the team's performance in overseas conditions.

Overall, they are a good side when they play in the sub-continent, but overseas it is a cause of worry.

The World Cup will be played overseas next year, so, definitely, there is a lot to work on.

Our bowling has become our weak link.

The spinners don't get much assistance outside the sub-continent. Our fielding has also been below par.


Image: India's off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Mohammad Kaif feels India's spinners don't perform well overseas.


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