Remembering Yashpal Sharma’s Crucial Contributions to India’s First-Ever World Cup Trophy in 1983
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.
Yashpal Sharma’s 61 in the 1983 WC SF v England. The six off Bob Willis was a delightful stroke. This footage was shared by Yashpal Sharma himself on Twitter on June 25th pic.twitter.com/A3B9kBCkNC
— Sarang Bhalerao (@bhaleraosarang) July 13, 2021
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.
Sad to hear the demise of my former team mate and friend #YashpalSharma! He was one of the main heroes who helped us lifting the 1983 world cup! May his soul rest in peace 🙏!
— Kris Srikkanth (@KrisSrikkanth) July 13, 2021
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.
RIP World Cup winning legend
Yashpal Sharma, could hit a long ball!
Here he is in Adelaide in 80/81 smoking some sixes
— Rob Moody (@robelinda2) July 14, 2021
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.
Shocked and deeply pained by the demise of Yashpal Sharma ji. Have fond memories of watching him bat during the 1983 World Cup. His contribution to Indian cricket shall always be remembered.
My sincere condolences to the entire Sharma family. pic.twitter.com/WBQ6ng2x8I
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) July 13, 2021
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