They have been friends for the last two-and-a-half decades, and as his old team-mate, Mohammad Kaif, walks into retirement, Harbhajan Singh rates him as one of the ‘best fielders India has ever had’.

Speaking to Sportstar from London, Harbhajan praises Kaif for raising the bar in the fielding department. “He gave his 100 per cent in whatever he did. Be it batting, bowling or fielding. He was the one who worked extremely hard on his fielding and he was the best we had,” Harbhajan says.

The seasoned spinner compares Kaif with Mohammad Azharuddin, who too was a classic fielder. “Kaif took the lead on the field. He was the best after Mohammad Azharuddin when it came to fielding," Harbhajan added.

READ| Natwest Trophy final hero Kaif retires

The two have known each other since the junior cricket days, and Harbhajan feels that Kaif—who called it a day on Friday—could have played a bit more for India. “I met him for the first time in Lucknow during a U-16 match where he scored some 70-80 runs. I wish him a much better life,” he says.

“It is all about the right opportunities. I agree that he could have played a bit more cricket for India, but he made the most of what came his way. He was a committed cricketer. But yes, thoda aur khel sakta tha woh (he could have played a bit longer),” Harbhajan says.

Despite being in the national team for nearly seven years, Kaif is best remembered for his unbeaten knock of 87 against England in the final of the Natwest Trophy. Interestingly, that was on July 13, 2002 — exactly sixteen summers ago.

Harbhajan believes that knock against England was a strong statement from the Indian batsman. “He must have thought of his decision (to quit on this day). That was his best innings. To be honest, as a cricketer, he was born on this day. It was that innings of 87 that got him noticed, people started talking about him. And now, he has decided to go out on this day,” Harbhajan says.

As Harbhajan puts it, he made the world take note of India’s fielding.