Gundappa Viswanath vividly remembers that January afternoon in Chennai, when he stitched together a 316-run stand with Yashpal Sharma. Against a star-studded England bowling line-up, India had lost its openers – Sunil Gavaskar and Pranab Roy – early and an injury to Dilip Vengsarkar meant the onus was on Viswanath and Sharma to steady the ship.
It was a challenging task for sure, but both Viswanath and Sharma had just one aim – to stay at the crease and help India bounce back in the fifth Test in 1982. They batted throughout the second day’s play, with Sharma scoring 140 and Viswanath hammering 222.
“We batted the whole day. I cannot forget that innings because I never expected myself to bat for the whole day in Test cricket because of my temperament. The two of us played and had a massive partnership. Yashpal was a very good cricketer, a very good fielder and a team man to the core,” Viswanath told Sportstar. Yashpal Sharma succumbed to a heart attack on Tuesday morning.
Yashpal Sharma, Indian batsman smashes Graham Dilley of England bowler (not in picture) for a four. (January 15, 1982) – The Hindu Archives
“It was sort of a bouncy wicket and we lost the openers early. Once Dilip was retired hurt, we had to settle down and take it from there. Both of us had talks about how to go ahead. The idea was to stick around for a couple of hours and probably pitch will be easy and the England bowlers (like Ian Botham, Bob Willis) will be tired. We had to ensure that we did not lose any more wickets. We never expected to play the whole day, but we could hang in there and played our shots. Yashpal too played a magnificent and an authoritative innings,” the former India batting legend said.
Viswanath couldn’t come to terms with the fact that Sharma – is no more. “It’s a terrible news. In our generation, he was one of the fittest guys. I never heard about his health problems. He was always fit and a very jolly person. He was always energetic and was always good to people. I never expected that our off the field partnership would end so soon…”
Even though Sharma witnessed highs and lows in his short international career (1979-83), he had a memorable outing in the 1983 World Cup where he scored 240 runs, helped India reach the final and eventually win the title. Sharma’s 89 off 120 balls against the West Indies in the group stage did set the tone for India in the tournament, and he followed it up with an aggressive 40 against Australia and a gritty 61 against England in the semifinal.
Shocked and deeply pained by the demise of Yashpal Sharma ji. Have fond memories of watching him bat during the 1983 World Cup. His contribution to Indian cricket shall always be remembered.
My sincere condolences to the entire Sharma family. pic.twitter.com/WBQ6ng2x8I
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) July 13, 2021
“Even though I was not part of the World Cup squad, I was in England and had the opportunity of watching the semifinal between India and England, where Yashpal played a gritty knock. Thanks to the Indian team manager Man Singh (P.R. Man Singh), I also got into the dressing room – those days, there were not so many restrictions – and watched that innings. Yashpal played with authority when he faced Willis and Botham. It was a beautiful innings, and that is one innings of his, which I will always remember because that paved the way for India to reach the final,” Viswanath said.
Having known Sharma for close to five decades, Viswanath remembers him as a ‘gritty’ cricketer who never feared challenges. “He was extremely gritty on the field, but a jolly man off the field. He loved having fun and he could take all the criticisms and was extremely good to people. Totally team man he was, so it is unbelievable that we won’t meet him again. I pray that God gives strength to his family,” Viswanath said.