Uttar Pradesh won the Ranji Trophy for the first time in 2005-06 the season Mohammad Kaif was making his debut as captain. After three final appearances in four years,Kaif speaks to our correspondent about UPs rise despite the obstacles on the way. Excerpts:
What is the secret of UPs consistent show?
There are many things… theres the passion to win,for starters. UP is a big state but,if you notice,most of the players come from Allahabad,Kanpur,Lucknow and now Meerut. They know each other well and there is a bond among the players. Many of them know each other from childhood. The success is a mixture of these factors.
Lack of infrastructure is a problem in your state. How do you work around that?
Even without any infrastructure,we are doing well. We have some facilities,but they are not very good. We would like an indoor stadium,proper grounds and a gymnasium. Gradually,things are improving. I have spoken to the UPCA secretary (Rajeev Shukla) and he said the association had their eyes on a few grounds that they were looking to develop. Hopefully,four years down the line we will have venues that can match up to those in other major centres… we could do with a video analyst as well. Things are going pretty slow,and it will take three to five years to get a proper set-up in place.
How were things when you were playing under-19 cricket?
There wasnt much of a difference. We used to bring our own balls and report to the ground early to roll the pitch. Somehow,we managed to find time for practice. But it was fun. These days youngsters are under a lot of pressure. Everybody wants to play for India. Parents have seen the fame and money that international cricketers get and push their kids. Our parents sent us to the hostel telling us,Hua toh theek,nahin toh ghar aa jaana (Its ok if it works out,otherwise come back home).
In this final,you were up against the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan,but at no point did the players look overawed…
We have a simple attitude: if our rivals have a bat in their hands,we have a ball. There is a hunger and passion among the players. A lot has to do with how theyre treated as well. If you keep encouraging a player,he will certainly come good. Similarly,if you keep telling someone they are bad,and keep repeating it,at some point they will have a negative approach.
As captain of Uttar Pradesh,what powers do you enjoy?
As far as that goes,I have been lucky. Whenever I have asked for any player,they have got a place in the side.
Do you think your team can improve if you have access to modern training equipment?
These things do help a lot and hopefully they will be available sometime in future. But even with just basic facilities,we have been doing quite well,so imagine what the standard could be if we get all that we need.