Throughout the 80s one big question that troubled Indian cricket fans and selectors were to find the proper support for Kapil Dev in the pace bowling department. As bowlers like Madan Lal and Roger Binny were slowly moving out of the scene a new set of pace bowlers appeared in the scene. This group included players like Manoj Prabhakar, Bharathi Arun, Sanjeev Sharma, and Chetan Sharma.
Chetan Sharma, who was born on this day, was one of the fastest Indian bowlers during 80s. A student of Desh Prem Azad like Kapil Dev, Sharma started his first-class career at a very young age of sixteen and was not even eighteen when he made his ODI debut against West Indies in December 1983.
He made his test debut next year, during India’s tour of Pakistan and started with a bang. He became only the third Indian bowler to pick up a wicket in his first over on debut when he bowled Pakistani opener Mohsin Khan for 4. For next 4-5 years, Sharma was the preferred bowling partner for Kapil Dev and delivered quite a few memorable performances for India, including the 10-wicket haul in Birmingham in a series which India won 2-0 in England. This also included his career best bowling analysis of 6-58.
Sharma had some bitter-sweet memories in One Day cricket. At one hand, he became the first bowler to take a hat-trick in the history of World Cup when he clean bowled Ken Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfield of New Zealand off consecutive balls. He also had some memorable innings with the bat, most notably his century against England in the Nehru Cup. Batting at number three, he guided the chase and scored the winning run which also took him to his only ODI hundred.
At the same time, Chetan Sharma is also be remembered as the fateful bowler who bowled the last over of the Austral-Asia Cup final in Sharjah in 1986. Four runs were required for a victory in the last ball and Javed Miandad clobbered the low full toss to the stands to give Pakistan one of the most memorable victories. This was one of the most painful moments for any Indian cricket fan which affected the psyche of an entire generation of fans and players.
By late 80s continuous injuries affected Sharma’s performance and his pace was down which finally resulted in him getting dropped from the national team. He tried hard to make a comeback and even move from his home state Haryana to Bengal to make a stronger case. He was given a chance in an ODI in 1994 against New Zealand. However, an aged Sharma was hit out of the attack by a young Stephen Fleming who hit five boundaries and Sharma finished his last ODI with the figure of 1-0-23-0.
Post-retirement Sharma became a popular commentator and also tried his hand in coaching. Among all this, he also contested Lok Sabha polls in 2009 for Bahujan Samaj Party without success.