'You'll see a different Kaif from now on'
A couple of days before the first one-day international, as the Indian team went through their paces at different parts of Kingston's Chedwin Park, Mohammad Kaif and Ian Frazer were involved in an animated session on the concrete pitch at a remote corner of the ground.
With the help of balls of different colours, shapes and material, Frazer delivered some fast short-pitched stuff on the jagged surface. Kaif decided to battle the pace and uneven bounce with a slightly open, two-eyed stance. Frazer would have none of it: "Go back to your original stance," he hollered. And everytime Kaif veered even slightly to open out, Frazer kept urging him to change it. "Focus on the ball, don't panic," Frazer continued. "When you wait for the ball to come to you, you have more time than you think. Watch the ball carefully, but don't glare at it."
Frazer later understood why Kaif was changing his stance. "It's just one of those things batsmen try to do from time to time," Frazer told Cricinfo. "I told him that it wasn't the stance that was preventing him from scoring runs. It was the same original stance that helped him score so many runs, there is no reason why he shouldn't be scoring again without resorting to a new stance."
In the practice game at Montego Bay, Kaif appeared far less fidgety than he had in recent months. He stood side-on and stuck a few gorgeous drives en route to a confident 49. In the first one-dayer at Kingston, he followed a similar approach, and though he rode his luck, surviving two dropped chances, the new-found confidence, for the first half of the innings at least, was there for all to see. "Only when you're not batting well do you start analysing your technique," said Kaif a day after the game. "You don't think so much about your technique, bat-swing and head position when you're in form. All you're doing is watching the ball, everything else falls in place. When you're not doing well is when all these things come into your mind. I changed a bit, it helped."
Kaif was glad he could get back his groove and looked to cash in for the rest of the series: "I'm happy I've got a good start in the first two games I've played. I wanted to stay till the end yesterday, and did just that. It's good I didn't panic. As long as I'm in the West Indies, I hope to carry on. You'll see a different Kaif from now on."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo