Ending his 16-year-long association with Uttar Pradesh, Mohammad Kaif has decided to lead Andhra Pradesh in the upcoming Ranji season after striking a two-year deal with the state association (ACA).
The Allahabad-born player has accumulated 9277 runs, taken 143 catches and picked 20 wickets in his first-class career.
"It's end of the road for me at Uttar Pradesh. Now we should give a chance to young players from the state. When players like Suresh Raina, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla joined the UP team, we helped them learn the ropes of international cricket.
"Now it's time that we help youngsters from other states (Andhra Pradesh) move to the next level," Kaif, who now stays in his Delhi-based home, told PTI Bhasha.
A terrific fielder and a solid middle-order batsman, Kaif, who represented India in 13 Tests and 125 one-day internationals, will kickstart his association from August 1.
Kaif, who shot to fame after a match-winning 87 not out and a historic partnership with Yuvraj Singh in the Natwest final against England in 2002, said that his move was long due after being in constant touch with the Andhra Pradesh Cricket Association (ACA) officials.
"ACA secretary Ganga Raju and senior official SSK Prasad have been in constant touch with me for over months regarding mentoring their state and many junior sides. They wanted me to hone talent in the state and finally I have agreed for a two-year deal," said Kaif, who also led the India Under-19 side to World Cup triumph in 2000.
Kaif, 33, said that he is not ending his association with UP but will now certainly have to spend a lot of time in Andhra.
"UP is my home. I have a house in Allahabad and will keep coming there. But most certainly my priority will be Andhra Pradesh cricket. I will join them from August 1 and will have to oversee a training camp. I will soon fly off to Andhra," said Kaif.
Kaif, who recently contested the Lok Sabha elections from a Congress ticket in Phulpur - Late Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru's constituency, has been with the UP team since the 1997-98 season. He captained the state team for six years and led his team to a Ranji title and two semi-final appearances.
"I am totally content with my UP career. It was only because of my state performances that I went on to play for India and enjoyed reasonable success," he said.
However, according to sources in the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA), Kaif was miffed at junior players like Chawla and RP Singh being given the captaincy and that led to his fallout with the state team.
Kaif said that he has informed UPCA secretary Rajeev Shukla about his move but said that he will always be available for the state's cricket when needed.
"UP has made me what I am. I will always be indebted to it's role in making me an international cricketer. So if they call me to any honorary or suitable post I will always take it up," he signed off.