Amol Muzumdar was padded up as the next batsman in for Shardashram English School when Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli compiled their world-record 664-run partnership in the semi-finals of the Harris Shield in February 1988. The incident aptly encapsulates the cricketing odyssey of Muzumdar who kept waiting in the wings for his turn to represent his country, while his Mumbai team-mates and contemporaries - Tendulkar, Kambli and Wasim Jaffer - pipped him to the post.
Muzumdar scored 260 against Haryana on first-class debut in 1993-94, still a record for a debutant, and went on to carve a highly successful first-class career spanning over two decades. Still, the India cap remained elusive. Later in his career, Muzumdar moved to Assam and now plies his trade with Andhra. This week he reclaimed the tag of highest run-getter in the history of Ranji Trophy, surpassing Jaffer, by scoring twin centuries (101 and 104) against Himachal Pradesh in round four.
In an exclusive interview with Cricketnext, the 38-year-old looks back at his illustrious career and talks about not representing India, his contemporaries and childhood heroes. Excerpts ...
You're again the highest run-getter in the history of the Ranji Trophy and have played the most matches in the tournament. What does the Ranji Trophy mean to you?
The Ranji Trophy means everything to me. It holds a lot of significance to not only me, but to all Indian cricketers. It's the bloodline of Indian cricket. All great cricketers of India - from Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar - are the product of the Ranji Trophy. It's an honour to be the highest run-scorer of this coveted tournament. It has given me everything - name, money, and an opportunity lead a good life.
Does being the most prolific and successful batsman in the Ranji Trophy attenuate the pain of not making it to the Indian team?
You can say that, but I no longer think about it. Not representing India, which was my dream, used to pinch me earlier but not anymore. I take immense pride and passion in playing cricket, and enjoy it thoroughly. I have no grudges or regrets. I have an upbeat outlook towards life and I count my blessings rather than cribbing about what I did not get.
Do you think you were born in the wrong era when India's middle order comprised of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, which left no place for you in the team?
Absolutely not. I firmly believe that I was born in the right era. It was a pleasure rubbing shoulders with so many great cricketers who transformed the fortunes of Indian cricket. I share a good rapport with all of them, and I enjoyed playing with - and against - them.
You always speak highly of your contemporaries like Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar. Is there any bitterness in the heart that you lost out on Indian berth (or didn't get any chance) as they occupied the middle-order slots for more than a decade?
They all are very good friends of mine, and how could you be bitter about your friends? One should be gracious and acknowledge the achievements of contemporaries and friends, rather than bemoaning your misfortune. Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar made great use of the opportunities they got and established themselves as the greats of Indian cricket. They lent splendid services to Indian cricket. As a friend, I'm very happy and proud of the feats they attained.
You scored 260 on your first-class debut against Haryana, still a record by a debutant. What are your memories of the match?
That match is firmly etched in memory forever. Scoring a double-century is a monumental achievement and scoring it on debut was the kind of stuff fairy tales are made of. I celebrated it with a set of special people like our captain Ravi Shastri, Samir Dighe, Sairaj Bahutule. Ravi bhai put his arms around my shoulder and told me that I have a bright future ahead.
Looking back at your career, which are the innings which gave you maximum satisfaction?
The innings which give you satisfaction are the ones when you bail your team out of predicament and drive it to victory in tough circumstances. I scored 125 against Madhya Pradesh in the semi-final of the Ranji Trophy in 1996-97. MP had amassed 369 in their first innings, and we had to bat on a rank turner at Indore. Sanjay Manjrekar and I made hundreds and we overhauled their target. Another innings which I could recall is when I scored 78 against Baroda when Irfan Pathan ran through the Mumbai side on a seaming wicket.
Who were your childhood heroes?
My childhood hero was, and still is, Sunil Gavaskar. He'll always be my hero. He's the best batsman I've ever seen.
How do you look at the current crop of Indian batsmen?
I think the future of Indian cricket is in safe hands. Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma are enormously talented batsmen who have the wherewithal to serve Indian cricket for a long period. These days youngsters gain a lot of exposure through Under-19 cricket, A tours and the IPL, so when they come into the international cricket, they're well prepared and don't look out of place.