The cricket world in general, and Indian cricket in particular, lost one of its grittiest batsmen of the 1970s and 1980s on Tuesday morning. Yashpal Sharma, right-handed batsman, died in New Delhi due to cardiac arrest.
Sharma was 66 and was a vital member of the 1983 World Cup-winning Indian team, one of the nine players to have played in all the eight matches in India’s campaign. Sharma was also a member of the national selection committee that chose the 2011 Indian team that won the World Cup.
His team-mates from the 1983 World Cup were in a state of shock and could not believe that one of them is no more.
Madan Lal, who was heading to Sharma’s house on learning that his team-mate is no more, told news18.com, “it is a shocking news. It’s a personal loss for me. I cannot believe he is no more with us.”
Dilip Vengsarkar and Balwinder Singh Sandhu were yet to come to terms that Sharma is no more. Said Vengsarkar to this website: “He was the fittest amongst all of us. I used to ask him what he did to stay fit and he said he has always been a vegetarian, a teetotaller. He was a fitness freak also. He said he used to have soothing meals that kept him light.”
Vengsarkar knew Sharma from their inter-varsity days before they broke into the national team. “We had a lot of partnerships in Tests and ODIs. I particularly remember the Test against Pakistan in Delhi in 1979 when we were on the verge of losing. We had a partnership of 122 for the fourth wicket with me scoring 146 not out and Yashpal scoring 60. We played out three sessions and after he got out, we lost a couple of more wickets. And, we eventually drew that match.”
Sharma was very consistent, Vengsarkar, 65, said. “He was a batsman who could improvise and play as per the situation. He could also hit big sixers."
Another team-mate of Sharma, medium-pacer Balwinder Singh Sandhu was inconsolable when news18.com contacted him.
“I have lost a family member. Am really in a state of shock. This is the worst news that I have got this year. I never imagined this could happen. We met as recently as June 25 in Delhi for the 38th anniversary of our World Cup win. He was keeping well. Everything was fine with him. His children are doing well. He was so happy that his children are doing well. In fact, he was worried about my health,” Sandhu, a right-arm medium-pacer, said.
Sandhu, 64, echoed Vengsarkar’s sentiments and said Sharma took good care of his health. “He was a very nice person. He was a lively character. In fact, he was my room partner during the 1983 World Cup. I had a very good time with him. He used to make tea for me every morning.”
Sandhu said life can sometimes be cruel.
“He was so active. He was a pure vegetarian, no habits like smoking and drinking. He used to be religious with puja and other activities. He was taking good care of his health. It is such a shocking news that he is not with us anymore.”
Sandhu, who also played in all the eight matches in the 1983 World Cup, said Sharma played a very big role in the World Cup.
“His role was to keep one end tight and let the others play their shots. He contributed immensely to India’s triumph that sometimes I felt he was not given due credit that he should have got. He played some fantastic shots.”
Sharma won the man of the match in India’s first match of the 1983 World Cup campaign, scoring 89 against the defending champions West Indies and helping India win by 34 runs. Sharma top-scored in the semifinal win against England with 61 at No. 4 and shared 92 for the third wicket with man-of-the-match Mohinder Amarnath (46) and 63 for the next with Sandeep Patil (51).
Sandhu said he’d always remember Sharma as one who “was very gritty and never gave his wicket away”. He said: “He used to just grind, grind and grind the opposition out. He came up the very hard way in his life. On top of that, he kept value for his wicket.”
Sandhu recalled with pride the partnership he shared with Sharma in the West Indies on the 1983 tour before the World Cup. “In the first Test in Jamaica, we were 127 for seven and I joined Yashpal. We shared 107 for the eighth wicket. I made 68 and he was the last man out for 63.
The 1983 World Cup team was like one big unit with each one caring for the other. Sandhu said: “We had a lot of fun, each one pulling one another’s leg. We used to crack jokes. We all will be missing Yashpal. He was so much a part of us.”
Yashpal, born in Punjab and who also represented Haryana, played in 37 Tests from 1979 to 1983 and in 42 ODIs between 1978 and 1985. He scored 1,606 runs in Tests at 33.45 with two centuries and nine fifties. In the ODIs, he scored 883 runs at 28.48 with 89 being his highest among four fifties.
Sharma also tried his hand at umpiring and match referee.
The Indian cricket is poorer by his demise.