Being raised in a cricket-crazy household is sometimes like having a personal library of romantic yesteryear archives of the sport. A crucial cog of India’s 1983 World Cup-winning unit, Yashpal Sharma passed away on July 13 at the untimely age of 66; and the first thing I heard about from my father was the statement […]
Being raised in a cricket-crazy household is sometimes like having a personal library of romantic yesteryear archives of the sport. A crucial cog of India’s 1983 World Cup-winning unit, Yashpal Sharma passed away on July 13 at the untimely age of 66; and the first thing I heard about from my father was the statement six that he hit off England’s Bob Willis in the tournament’s semi-final.
The Kapil Dev-led team was playing its first-ever World Cup semi-final against hosts England. It was an era of 60-over ODIs, played in whites, with scoring rates of five-an-over considered AB de Villiers-esque.
Chasing 214, Team India needed 86 in 18 overs, with Sharma partnering Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath for the fourth wicket. Feared English seemer Bob Willis ran in and bowled full on Sharma’s leg stump and the batsman pulled off something that wasn’t quite expected.
He stepped across the stumps, swivelled on his left foot and swung his bat towards the midwicket boundary. One might compare it with the audacious and innovative strokes that have become commonplace in T20 cricket today, but it was a rare sight back in the day. Even the camerapersons were taken by surprise, thus unable to capture the proper trajectory of the ball flying into the stands.
Revisiting that innings at a film launch party in 2017, Amarnath remembered telling Sharma: “I said I’ll go for it, tu aaram se khel (stay patient). He said, “Haan, haan, Jim pa.”
“First over, I stepped down the track and hit a four. Yash toh Punjabi hai, sehen nahin hua (Yash is a Punjabi, he joined the party, too). Next over, he steps down and hits a four. I told him, listen to me, thoda chill kar, we shouldn’t lose a wicket. He said, ‘Yes Jim pa, no problem.'”
The next ball was hit for that six.
He succumbed for a top-scoring 61 to Willis later in that game, which was eventually sealed by Sandip Patil’s 32-ball 51 blitzkrieg.
Sharma’s isn’t the first name that comes to mind when recollecting the famous 1983 triumph, perhaps because he didn’t associate with flair as much. But his critical contributions will remain etched in cricket’s history books.
Before the semi-final win, he played another match-winning knock against the defending champions West Indies in the opening game. Sharma top-scored with a fine 89 as Team India handed Clive Lloyd’s men their first-ever defeat in World Cup history, laying the foundation for a repeat in the final. He top-scored yet again (40), in India’s important win against Australia.
Here’s to the legacy of the understated, often-forgotten ones. Rest in Peace ‘Crisis Man’.
Image: Twitter/Sachin Tendulkar