Cricketer Yashpal Sharma: An innings cut short

Cricketer Yashpal Sharma: An innings cut short


On Tuesday morning, as Jatin Sarna came to know about the demise of cricketer Yashpal Sharma, he was devastated. Enacting him on screen in the upcoming sports drama 83, he believes, will be one of his career highs.

“It’s devastating to know that I will never be able to sit with or talk to Yashpal Sir again,” Jatin says. Composing himself with great difficulty, he shares how the director of 83, Kabir Khan, and him thought that Yashpal Sharma never got the glory he truly deserved. “The film 83 was supposed to reverse that and I was looking forward to

cheering for him at the film’s release in cinema halls. It’s difficult to accept that it never will be the case now.”

Back to the casting of the film, Jatin, known for his work in Meeruthiya Gangsters, Saat Uchakkey, Sonchiriya, Darbar and Sacred Games, wasn’t too eager. “As I got the offer, I searched and found that he had only scored 11 runs in the famous finals. So, I thought the role would be insignificant as there would be 10 other players in the film too. I was hesitant to pick up a small, inconsequential role.” He credits casting director Mukesh Chhabra for encouraging him to read the script and meet the director before turning the offer down. “It was only after I delved deep into Yashpal sir’s life that I was fired up. He scored 89 in the very first match against West Indies, and then a stellar 61 in semi-final against England. His zeal to win the World Cup became my passion to essay his role.”

First meeting

Jatin distinctly recalls when he first met the cricketer. “We were practicing in Dharamshala, when he first came to meet us. I was nervous. Our coach, Balwinder Sandhu sir, had very kindly told him that the actor playing his role was not very good! Yashpal sir met me very warmly like a true gentleman . Not only did he teach me his mannerisms, but also shared what was going on his mind.”

Right from the mental state, as Yashpal Sharma’s wife dealt with complications back home to rather impossible dream run from underdogs to superheroes, goaded by Captain Kapil Dev and seniors like Sunil Gavaskar, Jatin has tried to bring in emotions in his act on the pitch.

Before leaving for the shoot in England, Jatin got to meet Yashpal Sharma again. “He shared every little detail about his batting stance, how he fielded and the emotions he felt at certain moments.” What Jatin fondly recalls is how passionately Yashpal Sharma wanted to touch the trophy post the win, but there were too many teammates! “Pictures and videos were rare during those times and he shared how badly he wanted a little touch on the trophy. Finding no other space, he got down, holding it on his head — a picture that’s been part of all our collective memory.”


Memory bank

“Balwinder sir, who was part of the 83 squad, trained us all well. I am still a bad batsman, but a good actor I would like to believe that,” he says.

There are many memories that he holds dear — how Kapil Dev described Sharma as a sher jo bus pitch par marna jaanta tha to how Jimmy sir (Mohinder Amarnath) tried to calm him down before the game. “Sir shared how he always told his teammates — ‘don’t try to teach me my game’.”

The bond between the cricketer on the field and on reel lasted longer than a few meetings for the shoot. “It was incredible how after a few scenes, I called Yashpal sir and asked him how he did a particular thing and uncannily it would be the same as I had performed just minutes before.”

Jatin feels fortunate to have lived and shared some great moments of India’s cricket glory with the gutsy batsman of 83 — Yashpal Sharma

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