The get-together for Kapil’s Devils turned out to be a fusion of happiness and sorrow. They bonded over Kabir Khan’s film, ‘83’ and relived their glorious past. They became teary-eyed and broke down while recalling Yashpal Sharma, who passed away in July following a heart attack. Before the special screening of the movie at PVR Andheri on Wednesday, they observed a minute’s silence.
Sharma was the only missing star in the constellation, a middle-order batsman who played with dum (resolve) and whose contribution sometimes wasn’t highlighted enough. But the dressing-room respected him. His team-mates still do.
“Yes, we missed him very much. What a massive contribution he had made to that campaign. His energy, his sense of fun and utter dedication to Team India’s cause has not always got the credit, but this film makes up for that,” Sunil Gavaskar told The Indian Express.
Balwinder Sandhu felt a lump in his throat, while speaking about his World Cup room-mate.
“We observed a minute’s silence in Yashpal’s memory before the start of the show. We missed him on many occasions during the show as well. He loved watching Hindi movies and I used to pull his leg. It’s difficult to get over the grief. He will remain with us all the time. His family is like our family now,” Sandhu told this paper.
Sharma’s India and North Zone team-mate, cricketer-turned-politician, Kirti Azad said the heroes of 1983 broke down, as they took a trip down memory lane.
“We broke down many times and felt terrible. His contribution was immense. He set the ball rolling at the 1983 World Cup in the first game against the West Indies, coming up with that brilliant knock and shocking everyone. The win against the West Indies gave us belief,” Azad told The Indian Express.
The get-together made sure that Sharma was represented, through his wife and their children.
“We had a little get-together as our families were here. Ranveer Singh (who plays Kapil Dev) and Kabir Khan (director) were also there to interact with the 1983 family. Yashpal’s wife Renu and their two daughters and son, too, were present. We had moist eyes. These moments are very emotional for us. We remember him. The victory united India and made India a superpower, and Yashpal played a big part too. The team gelled like no other,” Azad said, adding: “We all made sure Renu and the children were here in the run-up to the release of the movie, to share these moments with us.”
Sharma had scored 240 runs in eight matches at the 1983 World Cup, an 89 off 120 deliveries in the first game against the West Indies being his brightest. It helped India beat the mighty Caribbeans and ensured a perfect start for a team that went to the tournament against the 66-1 odds.
“He played a very important innings of 89 in the first game at Old Trafford against the West Indies. That set the tone for us in the tournament,” said Dilip Vengsarkar. Old Trafford became a happy hunting ground for Sharma during the World Cup, for when India returned there to play the semifinal against England, he made another impact contribution – Allan Lamb’s run-out.
“Yashpal had contributed all through. His run-out of Allan Lamb in the semifinal against England was crucial and his partnership (of 92 runs) with Jimmy (Mohinder) Amarnath was important,” Azad recalled.
Sharma top-scored in that game, making 61 off 115 balls and along the way there was the small matter of hitting that statement six off Bob Willis – a swivelling-flicked over-boundary that wrested the initiative for India. “The six he hit off Bob Willis was something else,” said Azad.
A teetotaller, Sharma was happy to be the team’s ‘common man’, immersed in Dilip Kumar’s Kranti in his spare time. His fascination for the 1981 blockbuster made his team-mates bored to the point of playing a prank with him. “He had the cassette of the movie Kranti and wherever there was a television, he would ask for a VCR and watch it. One of the chaps said, ‘let us hide the tape because he was watching the movie every other day. He came back and didn’t find it, and he wasn’t happy. He said that he wanted a ticket to go home unless the cassette was returned to him,” Azad recounted.
Sharma was so reverential towards Dilip Kumar that he once credited his career to the great actor. “When I was playing Ranji at a company ground in Punjab, Yusuf bhai had come to see the match. He was the director of the ground. After the match, I was called in to meet him personally. Honestly, I was just speechless seeing him in front of me,” he had revealed on The Kapil Sharma Show in 2019.
He further spoke about how the actor had helped him to be in the Indian team reckoning. “He (Dilip Kumar) shook hands with me and said I have a lot of ‘dum’. He said that he will speak to someone, and he did speak to a prominent cricket administrator. I later got to know that it was because of his recommendation, I was chosen by the BCCI. Yusuf bhai ne hi kiya tha (He did it).”
Dilip Kumar passed away on July 7. Six days later, Sharma bade adieu to life, at 66 years of age.
To his team-mates, he was always a lot more than the hard numbers – 37 Tests and 42 ODIs. Sharma was courage personified. No wonder that eyes were moist yesterday.