Yashpal Sharma, one of the heroes of India’s 1983 World Cup, died after suffering a cardiac arrest on Tuesday. In a career that spanned from 1978 to 1985, the middle-order batsman managed to produce innings of substance when it mattered the most - during the 1983 World Cup. West Indies were the two times defending World Cup champions and by far the best team in the world. They had won 38 and lost 14 of the 52 ODIs they had played with a win-loss ratio of more than double the second-best. They were the world-beating West Indies widely regarded as the greatest cricket team ever at the peak of their prowess.
India were ODI minnows having won just 12 (and lost 28) of the 40 matches they had played till then. West Indies led the head to head 3-1.
The two teams were set to clash in their tournament opener in the 1983 World Cup at Old Trafford. West Indies were expected to run all over India.
It was expected to be a David vs Goliath encounter!
June 9-10, 1983 World Cup: India vs West Indies, Manchester: India’s top 3 got starts but failed to convert them into a substantial score and the side was reduced to 76 for 3 with Gavaskar, Srikkanth and Amarnath back in the pavilion. Yashpal Sharma came out to bat at Number 5 and joined Sandeep Patil at the crease. The pair put together 49 for the 4th wicket before the latter was dismissed by Gomes. Skipper, Kapil Dev’s brief stay at the wicket ended when he became Gomes’ second victim and exited for just 6 reducing India to 141 for 5.
Sharma put together a match-changing 73-run stand with Roger Binny with the latter contributing 27 to the partnership. He was finally dismissed for 89 off 120 deliveries – an innings which included 9 boundaries. India managed to score a respectable 262 for 8 in their allotted 60 overs. Binny and Shastri picked three wickets each to bowl out the West Indies for 228.
India won a famous victory by 34 runs. It was their second win in any World Cup match – the other against East Africa in the 1975 tournament. Against all odds, they had upset the mighty West Indies who suffered their first loss in the flagship tournament after going unbeaten in the first two editions.
Sharma came out to bat with the big 3 back in the pavilion and even as wickets fell around him, soaked the pressure, built partnerships including with the lower-order, mixing caution with aggression and ended with what remained a career-best 89 against a bowling attack comprising of the likes of Holding, Marshall, Roberts and Garner!
This victory gave India the belief and the confidence and set the tone for the entire tournament.
Sharma had a knack of producing his best when it mattered the most - against the big teams on the big stage – he displayed this quality of big-match temperament throughout the tournament.
In a virtual Quarter-Final against Australia at Chelmsford, he came out to bat at 54 for 2 and continued to attack the likes of Thomson, Lawson and Rodney Hogg even as wickets fell around him. His run-a-ball 40 was the highest score of the match and helped India to score a competitive 247. Lal and Binny picked 4 wickets each as Australia were skittled for 129. India were in the semi-finals. Had India lost the match, they would have been tied on equal points with Australia, who would have gone through on a better run rate.
While Amarnath got the Man of the Match award in the Semi-Final against the fancied English side at Old Trafford, it was once again, Sharma who top-scored in the match with a defining and patient 61 off 115 deliveries. Chasing a modest 214 from 60 overs, he curbed his natural aggressive stroke-play, kept the likes of Willis and Botham and the home-crowd at bay and, from 50 for 2, put together a match-winning 92-run partnership with Amarnath before all but sealing the match with another 63-run stand with Patil. India had caused a massive upset beating the hosts to enter the final.
Sharma registered three of his five highest ODI career scores in the 1983 World Cup. He top-scored in three big wins for India playing the defining knock in these matches – in their tournament opener, a potential Quarter-Final and the Semi-Final.
To produce his best, from difficult situations against top quality and feared bowling attacks on the biggest stage of them all in the big matches, which ultimately contributed to India’s greatest moment in their cricketing history and sparked a revolution in the sport, is the legacy of Yashpal Sharma to Indian cricket.
He was India’s second-highest scorer of the tournament with an aggregate of 240 runs from 8 innings at an average of 34.28.
India went on to beat the West Indies at Lord’s in the final on the 25th of June – a moment that changed Indian cricket forever. The roots of this victory, however, were laid 16 days ago, when a man from Ludhiana led India’s charge and caused a big upset in a match that is largely forgotten.