Former India batsman and member of the 1983 World Cup-winning team Yashpal Sharma, who passed away on Tuesday, had credited late Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar for recommending his name to the Indian cricket board for a spot in the national team. The Bollywood giant passed away only last week aged of 98.
“Sometimes future talent is picked by people from other fields. You call him Dilip saab (his screen name); I call him Yusuf saab (his original name). Yusuf saab brought a turning point in my life. I remember I was a Ranji Trophy player and that year my team Punjab had progressed to knockouts where they played Uttar Pradesh,” Sharma had recently told Navbharat Gold.
“I had already scored 100 in the first innings and was unbeaten on 80 in the second innings. It was the final day of the match. Suddenly, I saw 2-3 big cars at the gate. A few people got down and almost all of them had donned white clothes. I thought this must be some local politician, who loved cricket. They sat on a platform there.”
Then came the invitation from Dilip Kumar.
“When I completed my century in the second innings, they applauded. I had never met Yusuf saab before. A match official came afterwards and said ‘we have to go to administrative box and meet someone’. When I reached I was lost for words because Yusuf saab was there right in front of me. He shook my hands for a few minutes and said he liked my batting,” recalled Sharma.
“Dilip saab said, ‘you have the temperament. It is evident that you are talented and I will speak to someone about you’. Honestly it felt great that someone so big was speaking to me. I never met him after that,” Sharma added.
Within four years, Sharma made his Duleep Trophy debut, against South Zone in 1977, and scored 173 in that game.
“In 1978, while playing for the Rest of India [in Irani Trophy], I was on 87 when I came out after batting. I met the late Raj Singh Dungarpur ji (a former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India). He told me that we had kept an eye on you. He (Dungarpur) only told me that a few years ago that Yusuf saab had recommended my name. I was thrilled that a star of Bollywood, who didn’t even know me, had recommended my name and told them ‘there is this young batsman with talent and temperament, look out for him’,” said Sharma.
Sharma next met Dilip Kumar during the rest day of a Test match in Mumbai (then Bombay). The late actor had asked him to come over to the shooting sets of film Kranti, which also featured Manoj Kumar. He congratulated him on becoming a Test cricketer.
“I could never meet him after that. But I will be eternally grateful to him,” Sharma had said.