Dubai: An animated crowd of up to 75,000 is expected at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test match between Australia and New Zealand on Thursday, but for at least one of them — it will serve more as a trip down the memory lane than anything else. Chetan Sharma, a member of India’s historic World Championship of Cricket-winning squad in 1985 at the hallowed venue, will try to relive the memories of the final played there on March 10 more than three decades back.
Now in his mid-fifties, the feisty paceman Sharma was one of the lesser lights in a team, who are still considered to be one of India’s best-ever limited overs sides with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Kris Srikkanth, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath and Kapil Dev in their ranks. The pint-size Sharma, who shouldered India’s new ball attack with the legendary Kapil Dev between the mid-Eighties to early ‘90s, ended with figures of 7-0-17-1 as India beat Pakistan by eight wickets to claim one of their most significant white-ball triumphs ever.
Speaking to Gulf News over phone from Melbourne, a nostalgic Sharma said: “I am here with the family to spend the year-end with my daughter, who is doing her Masters here. Staying so close to the venue, I cannot resist the temptation of making it to the opening day of a full-house Test match at Melbourne where I was lucky to be part of a glorious chapter of Indian cricket.”
Sharma, who was the only Indian bowler to claim a hat-trick in the 50-over World Cup until Mohammed Shami emulated him in England this year, says that he was humbled to be part of a great batch at a time Indian cricket was just being taken seriously following their World Cup triumph in 1983. “However, we were far from the superpowers that we are in the game today. When the hosts failed to make it to the final, an indignant banner at the stands said final between bus conductors and truck drivers,” recalled Sharma.
Asked what made that team so special, he felt it was certainly the presence of at least five quality all-rounders in the great Kapil, Ravi Shastri, Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Manoj Prabhakar, leaving aside the batting prowess of himself, who went on to score a century in the 1989 Nehru Cup against England, Sadanand Vishwanath and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. “The presence of men who won us the World Cup, along with such a batting line-up, had been hard to emulate. The current Indian team, who are dominating the white ball cricket in such a fashion, are still trying to groom a bunch of all-rounders though there are players like Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya and promising customers like Shivam Dube,” he said.
Striking a personal note, Sharma recalled that it was on the morning of the final that skipper Gavaskar told him that he was in the playing XI as Binny was not feeling well. “I bowled a tight spell and could have got the wicket of Imran Khan off the first ball, who got a nick while hooking a bouncer and was caught behind. I was deprived of a sure wicket as there were no TV replays those days,” he said.
Asked to name at least three players in the team, who were key behind the triumph Down Under, Sharma was in a bit of a spot before saying: “It’s very difficult to name any particular individual. However, if I have to pick any three, I would say Shastri, who showed maturity much beyond his years, Sivaramakrishnan for the X-factor that he brought into our attack and Vishwanath for a supreme display of aggressive wicketkeeping,” he added.