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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Cricket’s common man

Yashpal Sharma’s participation in, and contribution to, the 1983 World Cup win carried an uncommon message

By: Editorial |
Updated: July 15, 2021 7:55:49 am
He had revived India from the pits of 108 for 7 in the first Test with a valiant 63 that took four and half hours, and in the second Test, had to retire hurt after a Malcolm Marshall bouncer socked him in the chest.

A few months before his heroics in the 1983 World Cup where India would trounce West Indies to transform Indian cricket, Yashpal Sharma, who succumbed to a heart attack on Tuesday, was bloodied and bruised in the Caribbean. He had revived India from the pits of 108 for 7 in the first Test with a valiant 63 that took four and half hours, and in the second Test, had to retire hurt after a Malcolm Marshall bouncer socked him in the chest. But he returned in the second innings to make a brave 50 that saved the game. It was with this hard-earned reputation that the honest craftsman, the “common man” of Indian cricket, would enter the World Cup.

It was Sharma who kickstarted the campaign for India with a man-of-the-match performance in India’s first game of the tournament — against who else but West Indies. He top scored with 89 as India convincingly beat the then world champions for the second time in three ODIs — the first win had come on that Caribbean tour at Berbice. That Yashpal-triggered win had raised hopes among the players, a majority of whom had initially looked at the World Cup as a tourist jaunt. And when the fairytale threatened to end abruptly in the semi-final, it was Sharma again who played arguably the shot of the tournament — an astonishing swivelling-flicked six off Bob Willis — to turn the tide again.

He would openly talk about the insecurities he faced, why he felt he needed to defend dourly at the start, as a failure could knock him off the team. Why he was made to feel that he never commanded a spot in the team. And yet, he carried the flame. And that was his true achievement: To send the message that the common man can through sheer grit and skill do things that seem out of reach.

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