Every Indian child who ever picks up a bat or a ball has one dream, and one dream alone. To wear the Indian jersey, to walk out onto the pitch with the national crest blazing on their chest, to win laurels for the country, to bleed blue...
There have been several talented youngsters who have gone on to achieve the honour and don the Indian shirt. They have showcased their talents, excelled and won glory for our country.
But this article is not about them. This is about the others.
The ones who, despite all their talent and dedication, never got to wear the Indian jersey. The ones who, despite everything they did at the national level, never got a taste of international competition.
Here are 13 unlucky first-class cricketers who despite trying their best never got to play for India:
1. Amol Mazumdar
During the infamous 661-run partnership between Tendulkar & Kambli in the Harris Shield trophy, Muzumdar waited on the sidelines. Unfortunately, his entire career panned out like that. Despite a world record knock of 260 on first-class debut, he never got to play for India during a 21-year career. With the likes of Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman in the side, Muzumdar found it tough to even get a look in.
He retired recently from first-class cricket with 11,167 runs from 171 matches, which featured 30 centuries.
2. Rajinder Goel
Unfortunately for the spinner, his career coincided with those of Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishen Singh Bedi. Sunil Gavaskar once hailed him as the toughest bowler he has ever faced, calling him "better than Bedi".
In a 27-season career, he finished as the highest wicket-taker in Ranji history with 637 wickets. He finished with at least 25 Ranji wickets in a season 15 times but never got to play for India.
However, Goel did play play one unofficial Test against Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1964-65.
3. Padmakar Shivalkar
Shivalkar's story is similar to Goel's. He too missed out on a spot in the Indian team because his career coincided with Chandrashekar and Bedi's. Though not as prolific as Goel, he did have figures that were more than just commendable.
He finished with 589 wickets from 124 matches at 19.89 apiece in 27 seasons. Earlier this year, the BCCI felicitated Shivalkar and Goel with the Col. C.K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award.
4. Mithun Manhas
Another victim of bad timing. The all-rounder came into the fore towards the turn of the century but because of the abundance of talent at India's disposal at that time, he never got a look in.
He was a key figure during Delhi’s run to the Ranji title during the 2007-08 season, where he scored 598 runs. In 157 first-class matches, Manhas has 9714 runs.
An off-break bowler who also keeps wickets, Manhas has played in the IPL for Chennai Superkings, Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors.
5. Devendra Bundela
With 138 Ranji caps, Bundela holds the record for the most appearances in tournament's 83-year history. He has been playing since the 1995-96 season and despite turning 40, he is still going strong. 9654 first class runs could not help him break into the Indian team which was packed with middle order batsmen in the late 90s.
6. Rashmi Ranjan Parida
He played 139 first class matches, scoring 8317 runs and even guided Rajasthan to their first Ranji title, scoring crucial scores of 56 and 89 in the 2010-11 final.
He once represented India A against a visiting England team in 2001, but that was as far as he got as far as his dream of playing for the national team was concerned.
7. Sitansu Kotak
A southpaw, Kotak played 130 first class matches and scored 8061 runs. He was a regular in the Saurashtra line-up in the 90s, but even consistent performances and victories never got him an India call up.
Now retired, he is a coach with Saurashtra and the Gujarat Lions IPL team.
8. Yere Goud
Javagal Srinath called him the "Rahul Dravid of Indian Railways" and that alone proves he deserves at least a look-in for the national team. He was also a part of the India A side that played England in 2001, after becoming the highest run-getter in the 2001-02 Ranji season with 761 runs.
But in 2012, he called time on a 17-year career with 7650 runs at 45.53, which included 16 hundreds.
9. Amarjit Kaypee
Another story of what might have been! Kaypee called time on his career in 2000 after 109 games. At that time, he finished as the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy with 7623 runs at an average of 54.06, including 27 centuries.
But none of this was enough to get him an India shirt.
10. Sridharan Sharath
Sharath scored 8,700 first class runs for Tamil Nadu from 139 games at an average of 51.17.
In fact, he is the only Ranji player to have played 100 Ranji games and still finish with a 50 plus average. But his career took a turn for the worse when he was involved in a motorcycle accident in December 1993.
And that was the end of any dream he would have harboured of playing for India!
11. Ranadeb Bose
Bose was a promising fast bowler who looked like he would break into the Indian team one day. In 2007, after a famous Test win at trent Bridge, India played a match against a Sri Lanka A side where Bose picked up 5 wickets. But Rahul Dravid chose to continue with his winning combination, choosing a certain S. Sreesanth over Bose and that was as close as he would ever get.
Over the years, the fact that he bowled pace but not express pace saw others like Munaf Patel and VRV Singh picked ahead of him.
12. Ashish Winston Zaidi
In an 18-year career, Zaidi took 378 wickets from 110 first-class matches.
18 seasons without injury for a pacer is no mean feat but the presence of fast bowlers like Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad meant that Zaidi's Indian dream never saw the light of day.
13. Conor Williams
A first innings knock of 143 followed by 83 in the second innings in the 2001 Irani Trophy saw Williams win a place in the Test squad for the tour of South Africa. He even opened in a Test match at the Centurion but the Mike Denness controversy meant that the match was stripped of its official status.
That was unfortunately the only match he ever played and unfortunately for him, it's not in the official records. Williams retired from first-class cricket after scoring 7942 runs in 124 games in 2011-12.
As John Greenlead Whittier once said: For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been'.