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“That World Cup was certainly a generation-inspiring one for the Indian team. It showed the world that they couldn’t be treated as underdogs anymore. They can be a force to reckon with”

There are dominators and then there is the West Indian team of the 1970s and the early 1980s. No team intimidated their oppositions more than the West Indies. In World Cup cricket, in the first few years, they looked invincible. They had the batting to decimate any attack and the bowling that sent shivers down the opposition camp.

However, it was an inspired Indian team that put an end to their winning streak in World Cup cricket. There was hardly any team (barring a game or two) that came close to beating the West Indies in the previous two editions of the World Cup. The Clive Lloyd-led side brushed aside every opponent they faced.

Hence, India who were massive underdogs going into the tournament had a task at their hand. Nobody even considered India as slight favourites, forget being title-contenders. But it all changed in 1983. Before this tournament, they had tasted victory in just one World Cup game and that came in 1975 against East Africa.

In their first game of the 1983 World Cup, the Kapil Dev-led side had to face the daunting Windies side which was filled with stars. Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards made up the batting line-up while the bowling attack comprised of the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner. West Indies were a proper world-beater and looked like the team to beat in the tournament.

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After being put into bat by West Indies, India were reduced to 76/3. Marshall, Holding and Garner had picked up a wicket each and it looked like Windies would roll over the Indian team quite easily. However, the arrival of Yashpal Sharma changed things.

He walked in and scored 89 off 120 balls powering India to a score of 262 in their 60 overs. It was a pretty good score those days. India had something to play with. But it was all due to Yashpal Sharma’s knock of 89 and some handy contributions from the lower order.

Yashpal’s innings never seemed to get the flow as he kept losing partners at the other end. He kept sharing small partnerships with everybody as soon as he came out to bat. The No. 5 first shared a 49-run partnership with Sandeep Patil for the fourth wicket before he joined forces with Roger Binny to forge a 73-run stand for the sixth wicket. He then shared a small yet significant stand with Madan Lal for the seventh wicket, pushing India towards a good total.

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However, what was important that despite losing wickets at regular intervals, Sharma didn’t lose his focus. He held one end up and kept the runs flowing from his end. He was the dominant partner in most of the partnerships and it boded well for India.

He was eventually out bowled by Holding for 89 but his innings propelled the underdogs to 262/8. In reply, West Indies couldn’t cope with a charged up Indian bowling attack as they were bundled out for 228. Roger Binny and Ravi Shastri picked up three wickets each, helping India record a historic win. It was West Indies’ first-ever loss in a World Cup game and it was India’s just second win in the history of the tournament.

That World Cup was certainly a generation-inspiring one for the Indian team. It showed the world that they couldn’t be treated as underdogs anymore. They can be a force to reckon with.

Thus, when we look back at that 1983 tournament, we may remember a lot of things. Kapil Dev’s heroic innings against Zimbabwe, Mohinder Amarnath’s performance in the final, Madan Lal and Roger Binny’s efforts with the ball throughout the tournament and a lot more. But there was one silent performer and that was Yashpal Sharma. He might’ve scored just a couple of fifties while amassing 240 runs in the tournament. But his contributions were important as well, none bigger than the 89 against West Indies in their opening game of the tournament.

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If you look back, Yashpal Sharma wasn’t the most popular or the most attractive player. He had a good first-class record and by the time the 1983 World Cup arrived, he had already played for India for close to five years. The Ludhiana-born right-hander never created any expectations amongst the fans and Windies wouldn’t have expected such a fightback as well.

In fact, that 89 still remains his highest ODI score and is one of his four ODI half-centuries. Yashpal had an average ODI record but this knock was a gutsy one. Facing the intimidating West Indian attack is never easy. But that day in Manchester, he defied the odds and rallied around with the lower middle order to help India post a good total which was eventually a match-winning one. He was awarded the Man of the Match for his knock but it’s a shame that this knock isn’t given a lot of importance as much as some of the other performances.

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