Phulpur: Facing an uphill task of winning this seat that his party has never won in three decades, former Team India member and Congress candidate Mohammad Kaif is hoping that his cricketing pursuits will help him in playing a match-winning second innings in the political field.
After Ram Pujan Patel of Congress won from this seat in 1984, the party has suffered defeat in the past seven Lok Sabha elections here. Congress sprung a surprise this time by fielding Kaif from the seat, which was represented by India`s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in Lok Sabha in 1952.
"Being a cricketer, I am going to watch the ball and focus on my shots. I don`t pay attention to what others are doing. I am travelling to several places and the youth are connecting with me as they recognise me as a Team India player.
Whatever I have done for my country with honesty and commitment on the cricket field, I will do in the field of politics, which is my second innings," 33-year-old Kaif told PTI in an interview.
Kaif is pitted against Keshav Prasad Maurya of BJP, AAP`s Shimala Shree, BSP`s sitting MP Kapil Muni Karwaria and SP candidate and former minister Dharamraj Singh Patel, among others, in this Lok Sabha seat which goes to polls on May 7.
The hero of Team India`s famous Nat-West Trophy final win against England at Lords in 2002, in which he scored an unbeaten 87 off 75 balls, said he is not worried about the experience of his rival candidates and has full faith in Rahul Gandhi`s captaincy which he finds similar to that of Saurav Ganguly.
"Rahul Gandhi`s leadership is similar to that of Saurav Ganguly. Both have clarity of thought and encourage youth. They believe in teamwork and let others flourish. Yuvi, Bhajji, Sehwag and I -- all did well under dada`s captaincy. Same can be said about Rahul Gandhi," said Kaif.
He also said that his popularity as a cricketer is helping him connect with voters, especially youth.
"My cricket background is helping me a lot. As a Team India player, people talk about performance, not about your caste or religion. In politics also, performance matters and that is how you are going to address real issues. I am sure that people will vote for me beyond caste considerations," claimed Kaif.
Political observers say that Kaif may benefit from a large chunk of over three lakh Muslim voters out of nearly 17 lakh total electors in this constituency.
Expressing faith in Congress ideology, he said that he is in a good team. "I am in a good team in politics. In cricket also, I was in a good team with the likes of players like Ganguly, Dravid and Sachin. Now I am playing a new innings for my country."
Kaif wants to play an aggressive second innings.
"I will play aggressive. It`s a long process and there are no shortcuts. You have to identify your team and work with it. That is my aim. People here want me to think like a captain for the betterment of Phulpur," he said.
He alleged there was a lack of infrastructure in Phulpur and held other parties responsible for neglect of real issues.
"Apart from Kanpur there is no international stadium in the state nor good academies. Nothing much has been done on the infrastructure and development front. Congress has worked here when it was in power and set up mills and industries," he said.