Playing international cricket is probably the highest honor any aspiring Indian cricketer could achieve. The path to receiving their maiden cap begins by featuring in the Ranji Trophy or several domestic matches. Only by scoring a truckload of runs consistently or bowling tirelessly and taking wickets can help a player achieve his goal of representing their nation at the highest level or get closer to it.
Playing first-class cricket for their state is relatively easy. There is comparatively less pressure on them to perform, and hence the athletes do come good. However, there exist certain cricketers, especially in the Indian circles, who do not get opportunities at the highest level despite years of grinding down and performing well at the domestic circuit.
With India producing several talented players, a few might be restricted to the Ranji level only. Ultimately, due to growing age, they had to retire and resort to some other job in the sport.
We take a look at eight cricketers who shone in the Ranji Trophy but could not get to play international cricket:
Rajinder Goel, the slow left-arm spinner representing Haryana, was one of the best spinners in the domestic circuit. Rajinder Goel was a giant figure in the first-class arena; however, he played in the era of Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, and Bishen Singh Bedi. Thus, his chance to play for India never came along.
The 77-year old took a mammoth 750 wickets in 157 fixtures in all Ranji Trophy fixtures. The 750 victims came at 18.58 apiece, along with 59 fifers and 18 ten-wicket hauls. Goel featured in only one unofficial Test against Sri Lanka and could never break into India’s Test squad. Even former India batting great Sunil Gavaskar rated him highly.
Amol Mazumdar’s failure in making the national Test squad was perhaps the most unfortunate thing in Indian cricket history. Amol Mazumdar, who currently coaches the Mumbai cricket team, piled a mountain of runs in first-class and List A cricket. However, when some of the batting greats had etched their place in the national team, not even the best at the first-class level can dislodge them.
The 46-year old hammered 11167 runs at 48.13, with 30 centuries, including a best of 260 on debut. Mazumdar also formed a prolific partnership along with Wasim Jaffer, who was yet another player scoring heavily in the domestic circuit. But the presence of VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly, never allowed the right-handed batsman to get a Test cap.
Padmakar Shivalkar was yet another prolific spinner whose name got restricted to the first-class circuit instead of going beyond that. Padmakar Shivalkar faced the same troubles as Rajinder Goel, playing in the era of Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, and Bishen Singh Bedi. The spin-quartet was one of the best in international cricket and the most fearsome.
The 81-year old former left-arm spinner has snared a mind-boggling 589 scalps in 124 first-class games and took them at 19.69 apiece. Shivalkar picked up 42 fifers and 13 ten-wicket hauls. But having played in the time of some of the top-notch spinners, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Mumbai-born cricketer never got an opportunity to represent India.
Javagal Srinath described Yere Goud as the Rahul Dravid of the Railways team and hardly any compliment gets bigger than that for any aspiring cricketer. But despite scoring tons of runs in the first-class and List A circuit, Yere Goud could not break into the Indian team. Though Yere Goud debuted with Karnataka, his best time was with the Railways, for whom he won much silverware.
The 49-year old won the Ranji title in 2001-02 and 2004-05 with the Railways team and then went on to lift three Irani trophies, one Duleep Trophy, and a one-day trophy. Goud, who hailed from a small town in Karnataka called Raichur, amassed 7650 runs in 134 first-class matches at 45.53, with 16 centuries. He also averages a healthy 37.53 in 49 List A fixtures, scoring 1051 runs and five fifties.
Coming next on the list is Amarjeet Kaypee, yet another record-breaking batsman, who could not feature in the Indian team despite his hard yards in the domestic circuit. Amarjeet Kaypee not only had plenty of records, but he also possessed a sound technique and an insatiable appetite for runs. The Haryana batsman featured in 117 first-class matches and 32 List A games.
The 60-year old amassed 7894 runs in the Ranji trophy, with 27 hundreds, and back-to-back seasons aggregating 800 plus runs with eight centuries. Kaypee is also the only batsman in the history of India’s first-class circuit to make 150 plus in two innings of the same match in a Ranji Trophy game.
His career clashed with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin; hence, despite scoring plenty of runs, he could not play for the Indian team.
Bhausaheb Babasaheb Nimbalkar earned wide recognition for scoring an unbeaten 443 for Maharashtra against Kathiawar in a Ranji Trophy match at Pune in 1948-49. Nimbalkar, also a wicketkeeper, holds the fourth-highest score in first-class cricket and is the highlight of his career. The late cricketer featured in only one official Test against the first Commonwealth team in 1949-50, scoring 48.
Bhausaheb Babasaheb Nimbalkar featured for Baroda, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Holkar, and Railways, amassing 4841 runs in 80 first-class matches at 47.93, with 12 centuries. The Kolhapur-born former cricketer also snared 58 scalps at 40.22 and took 37 catches, apart from affecting ten stumpings.
Sunil Valson became a lost name since he was part of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad; however, he never got to feature in a game. The Indian team, captained by Kapil Dev, triggered the turning point for the national side by overcoming all the odds to lift their first World Cup. They beat the two-time champions in the West Indies by 40 runs at the Lord’s, defending a paltry score of 183.
But it must be remembered that Sunil Valson was never given an opportunity to play a part in creating history. The 62-year old was one of the finest pacers in the domestic circuit, taking 212 wickets in 75 first-class matches at 25.35, with six fifers and a ten-wicket haul. Valson also featured in 22 List A games and picked up 23 wickets at 30.04.
Finally, Shitanshu Kotak, often touted as the Sachin Tendulkar of Saurashtra cricket, makes it to the list. Long before the emergence of Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara in the Saurashtra team, Shitanshu Kotak had been the bedrock of the side.
But India having a formidable middle-order, consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, never facilitated Kotak to come to the team.
Shitanshu Kotak’s 20-year period in the domestic circuit ended in 2013. The 48-year old accumulated 8061 runs at an average of 41 with 15 tons in 130 fixtures. Kotak also had impressive List A numbers, amassing 3083 runs in 89 games at 42.23, with three centuries.
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