It was his showing in the under-19 World Cup that brought him into the national reckoning. He was the skipper of the victorious under-19 (Indian) side in the World Cup in Sri Lanka in January 2000.
He also proved himself to be a skillful captain. Later he performed well in the Challenger Trophy Series. He played with much success for the Indian team on the tour of West Indies early in 2000. A stint at the National Cricket Academy and a training trip to Australia played a major role in furthering the cricketing education of Kaif.
A series of good performances in the domestic circuit followed and this saw him being drafted into the Indian One-Day side. He helped India to win the Nat West Trophy held in England. His performance in the World Cup 2003 was also satisfactory.