10 things you should know about Subhash Gupte
Some stories wither away with time, their greatness often forgotten over generations. All that is left of them are the fading pages of history books.
Subhash Gupte’s story is such, but those who were fortunate enough to see him play still recall his incredible skills with much reverence and awe. Even though the public memory and popular culture do not put him among the ranks of Erapalli Prasanna, Vinoo Mankad, S Venkataraghavan and Bishan Bedi, his strike rate was better than all of them.
Gupte played 36 Tests, grabbing 149 wickets at a strike rate of 75.7. Had it not been for an unfortunate end to his career due to questionable politics, he could have gone on to become the best leg-spinner of his time.
Here are 10 things that you must know about him:
1. The best spinner Sir Garry Sobers has seen
When asked to pick his all time Test XI, Sir Gary Sobers put Gupte above legendary spinner Shane Warne, pronouncing the Indian spinner as the best he had seen.
2. First Indian to take 10 wickets in an innings in first class cricket
In 1954-55, playing for Bombay, Gupte scalped all the 10 wickets of Pakistan Combined Services and Bahawalpur XI. His record of 10-70 runs was broken in 1956-57 by Premangsu Chatterjee, who recorded 10-20 as the best bowling figures for an Indian in a first class match.
However Gupte repeated the feat in Lancashire, playing for Rishton.
3. 50 wickets in West Indies
On his very first tour to the West Indies in 1953, the spinner managed to stun batsmen of high repute. Bowling on the rock hard pitches tailor-made for batting, Gupte grabbed 50 first-class wickets at an average of 23.63, which included 27 Test wickets.
4. Nicknamed “Fergie”
It was on this tour that he earned his nickname “Fergie”, after the West Indian spinner Wilfred Ferguson.
5. A whirlwind romance In West Indies
During the series, the leg-spinner from Bombay soon became the talk of the town in Trinidad. He met Carol there at an official function and was soon smitten by her. They continued their romance through the post and in one such letter, Gupte proposed to her.
The letter was promptly forwarded to Carol’s father, who gave his consent, and everything worked out well. They got married in 1962 and the ‘kanyaadaan’ was performed by Gupte’s friend and Indian teammate Madhav Apte.
6. 9 Wickets in a Test Innings
Gupte’s love affair with the West Indies continued even after he returned, as he grabbed nine wickets in an innings in Kanpur, a pitch where he performed exceedingly well. He would have been the first Indian to get all the 10 wickets in an innings had the wicket keeper Naren Tamhane not dropped the catch of Lance Gibbs.
7. Heroics against England
Gupte continued his great form on the 1959 tour to England, where he grabbed 95 first class wickets.
On the 1961 England tour of India, the leg spinner showed his mastery at Kanpur, where he grabbed 5 wickets for 20 runs, including a beautiful spell of 4 wickets for 6 runs in 18 balls.
8. Inspiration for Bishen Bedi and Vinoo Mankad
Subhash Gupte left a rich legacy for years to come and inspired many talented youngsters to pick up spin. One such youngster was Bishen Singh Bedi who, inspired by Gupte’s heroics, went on to become one of India’s most successful spinners.
Vinoo Mankad, India’s legendary spinner, picked up exactly from where Gupte left. He once told his son Ashok that if there was magic in cricket, then Gupte was the magician.
9. Anti-climax to a great career
In 1961, England were to play a match in Delhi. Gupte’s roommate on that tour, A.G Kripal, was accused of asking the hotel receptionist for a drink, and the administrators were miffed with Gupte for not intervening.
The same day, both the players were dismissed for “sharing their room”, as 6-7 Indian players were playing a game of cards in their room. Frustrated with the injustice done to him, Gupte migrated to Trinidad to live with his wife. At 32, he had played his last Test for India.
10. Heavenly abode
Gupte, 72, passed away in June 2002 when and he and his wife were preparing to receive the Indian cricket team in Trinidad, who were on their tour of West Indies. When Carol finally met them, she told Sourav Ganguly that maybe Subhash’s spirit wanted to return to his home country along with his team.