Yashpal Sharma, born August 11, 1954, is a former Indian cricketer known for his courageous and improvising batting in the middle-order. He was one of the heroes in India’s World Cup triumph in 1983. On his 63rd birthday, Suvajit Mustafi looks at 12 interesting fact about the versatile cricketer.
1. ‘Crisis man’: Sunil Gavaskar, Yashpal Sharma’s teammate for many years, called him a ‘crisis man’. True, challenges brought out the best in Yashpal, who thrived under pressure.
2. Down with STD! Yashpal had a peculiar accent and many of his teammates misunderstood what he really meant. Anshuman Gaekwad once narrated a funny anecdote when Yashpal once ran into the dressing room, yelling and complaining of a burning sensation inside him. He said, “STD ho gaya hai. Ye mujhe pehle kabhi nahin hua hai.” [“I’m down with STD. This has never happened to me before.”] It took a while for Gaekwad to understand that what he meant was ‘acidity’!
3. Chetan Sharma’s uncle: Yashpal is the uncle of Indian cricketer Chetan Sharma. Yashpal is almost 12 years older to his nephew. The duo represented India together in two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and in one of them Yashpal took a catch off Chetan’s bowling to dismiss England’s Graeme Fowler.
4. Early rise: In 1972, while playing for Punjab Schools against Jammu and Kashmir Schools, Yashpal stroked a brilliant 260. He was spoken highly and soon made it to Punjab University for whom he impressed with an innings of 139. In October 1973, at the age of 19, he made his Ranji Trophy debut for Punjab against Services at Jalandhar, and in the second innings shared an unbeaten 169 stand with Mohinder Amarnath. Yashpal remained not out for 60.
5. Success against world-class bowlers: In the Duleep Trophy semi-final in 1977, Yashpal guided North Zone to a victory on the first innings against a dominant South Zone attack. The opposition had quality bowlers like Abid Ali, Erapalli Prasanna and Bhagwath Chandrasekhar. Yashpal batted almost five hours to stroke 173.
6. Indian Cricketer of the Year: Frustrated at being overlooked by the national selectors, Yashpal continued scoring in the next season. He finished with 762 runs at 76.20 and was named the Indian Cricketer of the Year.
7. Continues the golden run: In January 1979, against the touring West Indies, Yashpal scored an unbeaten 135 for North Zone. The bowling attack comprised of Vanburn Holder and Malcolm Marshall. In his very next game, he ensured the Duleep Trophy title for North Zone when he top-scored for them with 89 in the first innings against West Zone that had the likes of Gavaskar, Gaekwad, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ashok Mankad, Yajurvindra Singh and Karsan Gharvi. Here was his ticket for the national side.
8. Fruitful 1979-80 season: Yashpal scored his maiden Test hundred in his seventh Test. It came against Australia and in Delhi. In the next Test, he almost won India a game at Eden Gardens against Australia. Chasing 247 for a win, Yashpal stroked a fluent 85 from 117 balls before bad light halted the progress. India ended at 200 for four.
9. Marathon stand with Gundappa Viswanath: Against England, at Chennai, Viswanath and Yashpal added 316 — the then highest third wicket stand for India. Viswanath got a double ton and Yashpal got a 140. The duo batted throughout the second day. They are only the third Indian pair to remain not out throughout a day’s play. The match ended in a draw.
10. World Cup 1983 hero: Yashpal set the tone for India as he starred in India’s win over West Indies in their first match of the World Cup campaign. Coming in to bat at 76 for three, India were soon reduced to 141 for five. Yashpal’s 89 from 120 balls was not just about his stroke-play but also about nimble feel and quick running between the wickets. He guided India to a 34-run win over the then defending champions. His aggressive 40 against Australia and gritty 61 against England played crucial roles in India winning those games. Yashpal scored 240 runs in the tournament at 34.28 as India went on to lift the World Cup.
11. Indian selector: Yashpal was the national selector in between 2003 and 2006 when Indian cricket were going through an uneasy phase. He was vocal against the then coach Greg Chappell and supported Sourav Ganguly. Later he became a national selector again in 2008. Earlier, he also served as a coach of the Uttar Pradesh Ranji team.
12. Versatile cricketer: Yashpal could bowl medium-pace and has 47 First-Class wickets at 33.70. He could also keep wickets if needed. For a man of his abilities, it’s fair to say that he underachieved at the international level.
(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)