“It’s shocking, just unbelievable. I just met him in Gurgaon at an event to celebrate the anniversary of our ’83 World Cup triumph. He looked the fittest of the lot. I thought he would live for 100 years! He was a strict vegetarian, and never used to drink or smoke. He told me that he was only having soup for dinner these days, and had cut down on rice. He had a tee-totaller. controlled diet. He was a strong guy, basically a fitness freak,” former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar told TOI.
“When we used to tour England, a lot of his friends and fans there used to get vegetarian dabba (tiffin) for him, because vegetarian food was scarcely available those days in England,” he added.
Along with Vengsarkar, Sharma had put on a match-turning 122-run partnership for the fourth wicket against Pakistan on the final day of a Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi against Pakistan in 1979. After pacer Sikander Bakht took eight for 69 to send India crashing for just 126 in the first innings, the hosts bounced back by scoring 364 for six in their second dig, just 26 runs short of their 390-run target in the fourth innings. Vengsarkar was left unbeaten on 146, while Yashpal scored 61.
“Going into the last day of that Test, we were set to lose that game against Asif Iqbal’s team. However, due to a big partnership between me and Yashpal, we almost won the match! We had to settle for a draw after we lost a few wickets, including that of Yashpal,” he recalled.
Former India seamer Balwinder Singh Sandhu too seemed extremely emotional at Sharma’s passing away. “What bad news to receive in the morning! It was just last week that I met him during that ’83 event. He was worried about my health! He told me to keep my weight in check. He seemed to be totally fine. It’s so shocking that he’s no more,” Sandhu told this paper.
Recalling memories of that triumphant run, which stunned world cricket, Sandhu said: “He was my room-mate during the entire World Cup (in England). We used to call each other ‘Roomie.’ We’ve so many memories, we’d a good time together. I and Sandeep Patil used to pull his leg in good fun. Our ’83 team is like a family. I can’t believe that he’s no more. It’s shocking and devastating for me. I had never imagined that something like this could ever happen to him.”
Sandhu felt that Sharma didn’t get due credit for his role in India’s stunning World Cup win despite scoring a match-winning 89 in the opener against a fearsome West Indies attack, and then a half-century in the semifinal against England. “I always believe that he didn’t get the kind of credit by the media that he deserved for his role in India’s World Cup victory. He had contributed in all the departments of the game in that tournament. He scored runs and fielded well, effecting run outs and taking good catches. He used to smash the ball a long way – we used to call it the ‘badam shot.’ I had named it as the badam shot because he used to eat a lot of badams (almonds). He was a very strongly built guy. He played his role to perfection in that tournament. He was all the time fired up about doing something special in the World Cup.
Sadly, Sharma passed away before he could watch ’83 – a film based on India’s famous cricket win, which has been delayed due to the pandemic. “He was so keen to watch this movie. We’d made that actor work hard on that role,” rued Sandhu. He said that Sharma seemed content in life. “One of his daughters is in the US, and the younger one has become a doctor, and he was so proud about that, and happy that he had grandchildren,” he said.