Unfortunately for them and fortunately for the world of cricket, Mohammad Kaif and Jonty Rhodes, two of the most proficient fielders cricket has ever seen, have as well played a hidden yet vital role in giving us two of the most critically acclaimed captains of all time: Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Graeme Craig Smith.
What Dhoni and Smith have done to their respective teams since their captaincy is commendable and an extensive analysis of the same has already been carried out many a time. However, the silent contribution of Kaif and Rhodes has been unsung.
Kaif made his international debut as a Test player in a match between India and South Africa at Bangalore, Mar 2-6, 2000. But it was after the phenomenal fielding and 87 not out from 75 balls in the NatWest ODI series in 2002 that he shot to fame.
This placid knock under intense pressure coupled with the inherent captaincy skills he displayed while leading the under-19 Indian cricket team to victory in 2000 junior world cup made him to be considered as a potential candidate for leading the Indian team after Rahul Dravid.
Sadly, Kaif’s fame was short lived and he did not sustain his place in the ODI team due to several factors. Had Kaif played a few more match-winning innings on a consistent basis and sustained his place in the squad, the look out for a wicket keeper batsmen would not have been intense given the fact that Dinesh Karthik made his debut long before Dhoni’s 183 knock at Jaipur in October 2005.
Thus we owe Kaif for his poor form which paved a way for Dhoni’s entry into the team. For that matter, it is also necessary that we thank Karthick’s not-so-fabulous skills behind the stumps.
Rhodes’ international debut was way back in 1992 against Australia: his saga starting when Inzamam-ul-Haq fell prey for his exceptional diving run-out during the 1992 World Cup.
From there he went on to be the “best fielder ever” in the history of cricket. Rhodes had decided to bid goodbye to international cricket after the 2003 World Cup when he fractured his finger in a match against Kenya thereby being declared unfit for the rest of the World Cup matches. Smith was called in as a replacement and his journey from the 2003 world cup to this day is needless to describe.
It is certainly foolish to argue that Kaif and Rhodes were the sole reason behind the entry of Dhoni and Smith. Nonetheless, Kaif’s timely nonperformance and Rhodes’ injury were significant factors.