“Kapil’s Devils” will sadly be one member short from now on. Yashpal Sharma, one of the quiet heroes of India’s historic 1983 World Cup triumph in England, died on Tuesday following a cardiac arrest. He was 66.
A middle-order batsman, Sharma played 37 Tests and 42 ODIs, between 1978 and 1985. His solid first-class career contained 8,933 runs, with 21 hundreds and 46 fifties. The Ludhiana-born batsman and part-time wicket-keeper played for Punjab, Haryana and Railways.
He will be remembered though as a key member of Kapil Dev’s India that rocked the cricket world by toppling Clive Lloyd’s nearly indomitable West Indies in the Lord’s final, denying them title hat-trick and starting a new chapter in world cricket.
Mention the 1983 World Cup campaigns and the images that spring to mind are Kapil’s 175* against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells and his running catch to dismiss Viv Richards in the final; Balwinder Sandhu’s banana in-swinger to bowl Gordon Greenidge; Mohinder Amarnath’s all-round heroics, or K Srikkanth’s square drive off Andy Roberts in the final.
It was Sharma though who lit the spark. His top-score of 89 was crucial in the upset of West Indies in India’s first group match at Old Trafford. Though India lost the return game, that win gave the belief that Lloyd’s side was beatable.
Old Trafford was the scene of Sharma’s heroics in the semi-finals too, this time to beat England. He again top-scored with 61, and a crucial partnership with Sandeep Patil (51*) took India to a four-wicket win. He was also one of the sharpest fielders in that side, his outstanding work in the covers capped by a direct run out of Allan Lamb.
Yashpal came into national reckoning in 1977 with a match-winning 173 for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy final, highlighting his dominance of South’s India spin stalwarts Erapalli Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.
He scored two Test centuries, 100* against Australia in Delhi in 1979, his debut year. The other, 140, came in a 316-run stand with GR Viswanath, who hit an India Test record 222, against England in Chennai in 1982. His only Test wicket was Desmond Haynes, caught by Ravi Shastri in the Antigua Test of 1983. David Gower was his sole ODI scalp, caught by Dilip Vengsarkar, at Oval in 1982.
On Tuesday, his former teammates were distraught, describing Sharma as a gritty cricketer, and one of the fittest among them.
“It is very difficult to believe,” former skipper Vengsarkar said. “We met hardly 10 days ago in Delhi (at a function for the 1983 World Cup team). He looked the fittest of the lot. He was a teetotaler and a fitness freak. I asked him how he kept himself fit and he told me “in the evening I only drink soup”.”
News Source: HindustanTimes