“We have a Whatsapp group called ‘Forever Champions‘ which includes the members of the 1983 World Cup team. The first message was that of Yashpal’s passing away. I was shocked. He was hale and hearty and his sudden passing away left me numbed. My condolences to his wife and family,” Srikkanth told TOI on Tuesday.
Srikkanth’s association with Sharma goes back to the 1980s and he fondly remembered the heroics and contributions of Sharma in Indian cricket. Sharma was the second highest-scorer behind Kapil Dev in India’s 1983 World Cup win with 240 runs. He also played two crucial knocks – 89 against West Indies in the first match and 61 not out against England in the semis – during the tournament.
Srikkanth says Sharma’s 89 helped India gain in confidence in the World Cup. “He was always our unsung hero. He would always contribute either with his bat or his tremendous fielding. The fact that Yashpal (Sharma) was the second highest-scorer in the 1983 World Cup behind Kapil Dev with 240 runs speaks volumes of his contribution in our triumph. That 89 gave us self-belief while the way he smashed Bob Willis for sixes against England set the tone for the successful chase in the semis. I still remember his love for badams (almonds) during our playing days. So whenever he used to hit those sixes, we would call them ‘badam shots’,” the 61-year-old reminisced.
While Srikkanth was known for his flamboyant batting, Sharma was dogged in his approach. Srikkanth said that the contrast in batting styles helped them gel. “His batting was gritty to the point that he would take blows on his body but would never give away his wicket. We would often share batting notes with each other and that would eventually help us improve our skills,” the former India opener said.
Sharma’s contribution wasn’t only limited to India’s first World Cup win. He was a national selector when India won their second 50-over World Cup in 2011. Incidentally, Srikkanth was the chairman of the committee. Srikkanth said Sharma had a keen eye for recognising talents. “His insights were logical and he was upright in his views and never compromised while selecting teams. That was crucial for us to name a World Cup-winning side,” he said.