Ending his 16-year association with Uttar Pradesh, veteran Mohammed Kaif will lead Andhra in the upcoming Ranji season after striking a two-year deal with Andhra Cricket Association (ACA).
The Allahabad-born player has accumulated 9277 runs, taken 143 catches and picked up 20 wickets in his first-class career.
"It's the 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," Kaif said.
"Now it's time that we help youngsters from other states (Andhra Pradesh) move to the next level."
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 ACA officials.
"ACA secretary Ganga Raju and senior official SSK Prasad have been in constant touch with me for 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.
"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."
Kaif, who recently contested the Lok Sabha elections from a Congress ticket in Phulpur, 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 semifinal 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.
Kaif said that he has informed UPCA secretary Rajeev Shukla about his move but said that he will always be available for the state when needed.
"UP has made me what I am. I will always be indebted to its 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 said.