"I have spoken to and received the good wishes of many of my seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh and Virendar Sehwag. They have assured me that they would be here to support me during the campaign whenever it is possible for them. I am still in the process of contacting other cricketers I have played with and they may help me in electioneering too.” Kaif said. (Agencies)
"Cricket gave me the opportunity to travel to various parts of the country. Whenever I toured Maharashtra or the southern states, I felt the contrast with UP in terms of development in general including lack of adequate sporting infrastructure here," he said.
"I used to feel impelled to do something for my home state, particularly for my home town Allahabad, which has a huge treasure trove of raw sporting talent which remains untapped for want of good coaching and training facilities. But, I used to be clueless as to how to do that. Now I feel I have a platform from which I can serve my people," he added.
Kaif expressed confidence that he would work his way up in politics in keeping with his batting style which kept the scoreboard ticking with ones and twos despite lack of flamboyant boundaries and sixes.
Kaif said that he felt ‘very strongly’ that ‘in the past 25 years, when the Congress has been out of power in the state (UP) and during the period the party has also suffered defeat after defeat from Phulpur, the state in general and the Parliamentary constituency in particular have suffered stagnation’.
He said that politics is a full time job.
"I have entered politics knowing fully well that it is a full-time job," Kaif said and when asked whether he implied that he planned to retire from the Ranji-level cricket as well as the IPL, he said, "A decision will be taken depending upon how circumstances unfold.”
To a query about his rather short international cricketing career, the 33-year-old said, "I feel whatever I have got was by the grace of God and by virtue of the love of my fellow Allahabadis besides, of course, the support of the entire country. I feel satisfied and there is no gila-shikva (complains)".
Fondly recalling his first meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi "who had come to Karachi to watch a match against Pakistan in which I also played", Kaif said, "I was nevertheless surprised when I got the offer (for contesting elections).”
On being asked how confident he felt about his prospects given the fact that the Congress has faced defeat here in the last seven Lok Sabha elections and also the generally perceived anti-incumbency which is likely to adversely affect the party, Kaif said, "people might recall that as a cricketer I was workman-like and not flamboyant.
"I did not hit many boundaries or sixes but used to keep the scoreboard ticking with quick singles and twos. I hope to work my way up in politics as well".
The cricketer-turned-politician also rued about the lack of development in Uttar Pradesh, especially in the Allahabad region while addressing a press conference on Friday, a week after getting the Congress ticket from the Phulpur constituency.
"I have spoken to and received the good wishes of many of my seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh and Virendar Sehwag. They have assured me that they would be here to support me during the campaign whenever it is possible for them. I am still in the process of contacting other cricketers I have played with and they may help me in electioneering too.” Kaif said.