Bengaluru, May 6: It's almost the cricketing equivalent of George Best not playing in the football World Cup.
VVS Laxman had already established his credentials as one of India's best batsmen, thanks to the epic 281 that he had scored against Australia to earn India a miraculous win.
Yet, when it came to the final 15 for the Sourav Ganguly-led squad for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, the stylish Hyderabadi batsman found himself out of favour.
Years later, the then coach John Wright was accused by the then selectors of keeping Laxman out of the squad. The blame game will be on but none can undo Laxman's biggest misfortune in his illustrious cricketing career which was to miss out on a World Cup berth.
What was even more baffling was that Laxman was overlooked in favour of Punjab's unheralded Dinesh Mongia, whose only road to fame till then was a 159 not out against a pedestrian Zimbabwe attack in an ODI in Guwahati.
It is true that Laxman himself was never as effective in the ODIs as he was in the longer format, but yet he was definitely among the best of the batters India had at that time, in the league of the Sachin Tendulkars and Rahul Dravids.
It was presumed then that Mongia was picked ahead of Laxman (who at that time had scored 1,240 runs in 50 matches at a not-so-great average of 27 plus) for his superior fielding skills.
So upset was Laxman (even Ganguly said recently that Laxman's omission was perhaps a mistake) that he had even contemplated quitting the game.
But wiser counsel prevailed as he came back to play some crucial knocks in the shorter format. Laxman hit as many as three hundreds in a tri-series that India played next in Australia in 2003-04, making up for his lost opportunity.
Mongia, on the other hand, had a quiet World Cup - his once in a lifetime opportunity - and the irony was that he even went on to play the final of the tournament, a match in which even his legendary team-mate Anil Kumble was left out!