Yashpal Sharma’s sudden passing has been a total shock. For one of the fittest members of the 1983 World Cup-winning team to pass away so early just re-emphasises that life is uncertain and none of us know when our number will be up. We are all in the departure lounge awaiting the call and it’s advisable to make the most of what little life we still have left.
Yash was a gritty batsman who could be relied upon to play when we had lost early wickets. He was also one of the first improvisers in the Indian team as could be seen with the manner in which he would move to both sides of the stumps to hit the ball high and away. He really came into his own in the 1983 World Cup where he played a couple of sterling innings. It was his knock of 89 against the West Indies, the defending champions, in our first game of that campaign that got us to a score that the Windies despite their strong batting order could not chase down.
Today’s cricket followers would perhaps ask how many hundreds he has scored in the one-day format, but not many of them would know that those early days of limited-overs cricket, was played with a red ball which moved especially in England right till the end of the allotted overs. Also, there were no restrictions on the bouncers bowled, neither were there any field restrictions. So, a captain could spread his field and ask his bowlers to bowl one side of the wicket with boundaries being protected. It is in this context that his efforts have to be appreciated. Yash was also among the few Indian fielders then who could dive and slide near the boundary to stop the ball going over the ropes and in the covers he was hard to go past. His powerful flat throw often had many batsmen scrambling to get back to the crease and he hit the stumps directly more often than the others in the team did. Moreover, he was a team man to the core, willing to do anything – even keep wickets if the team needed it. After retirement, he served Indian cricket in many ways as a coach, as an umpire, as a selector and a manager of junior teams, too. Indian cricket has lost a real champion and our 1983 team has lost a member of the family.
Yashpal Sharma was willing to even keep wickets if the team needed it. – The Hindu Photo Library
Indian sport lost another stalwart when Keshav Datt passed away a few days before Yash did. Keshav won two Olympic gold medals as a member of the Indian hockey team and was also a top badminton player. It would be a fitting tribute to him if the Indian hockey team, which is looking in sparkling form, can win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. It would be wonderful too if in the athletics field India won medals as a tribute to the legendary Milkha Singh ji, who also passed away last month.
It’s not been the best of months for the Indian sporting world, but hopefully there will be joyous news coming out of Tokyo to make up for the sad news of the last few months.
There was only joyful news for Novak Djokovic as he won the Wimbledon singles title, making it his 20th title in majors. He thus joins Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who also have won 20 titles each and reopens the debate as to who is the greatest among them. It is never fair to compare different eras because the playing rules, the equipment all make a huge difference as was explained in part earlier with the difference between the red ball, the limited-overs game with no field or bouncer-per-over restrictions and the white ball one with those in place. Not to speak of the improvement in equipment, especially bats and helmets and other body protection coming into the game recently. Similarly, with the change from small wooden racquets to the big graphite ones, which are way lighter, the equipment has changed for the better. There is also the tie-breaker rule that shortens a match that has to be taken into account and that’s why it’s best never to compare different eras.
Novak Djokovic certainly makes a great case for being called the greatest if one looks at the multiple times he has won the four majors. Roger Federer has won the French Open only once and Rafa Nadal had won the Australian Open once. – Getty Images
However, since the Big Three are playing in the same era, there is scope for comparisons. At the end of the day, statistics tell the story, especially if the career span is a long one and not restricted to a season or two. Djokovic certainly makes a great case for being called the greatest if one looks at the multiple times he has won the four majors. Federer has won the French Open only once and Rafa Nadal had won Australian Open once. On the other hand, Djokovic has won all four majors more than once, and so that makes a great argument for him being the greatest.
I love sport, but certainly don’t pretend to know the nuances of every sport, so will happily leave the final word on the debate to those who know it all.