Subhash Gupte

11 Dec 1929
31 May 2002
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Subhashchandra Pandharinath “Fergie” Gupte ( मराठी : सुभाष गुप्ते ) About this sound pronunciation (help·info) (11 December 1929 in Bombay, India – 31 May 2002, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago) was one of Test cricket’s finest spin bowlers. Sir Garry Sobers pronounced him the best leg spinner that it had been his pleasure to see.

Gupte flighted and spun the ball sharply, and possessed two different googlies. The West Indians who toured India in 1958/9 reckoned that Gupte could turn the ball on glass. His only drawback perhaps was that he tended to lose confidence when the batsmen attacked his bowling.

He made his debut in 1951/2 and from the next season onward took over from Vinoo Mankad as India’s leading spinner. He was nicknamed after the West Indian leg spinner Wilfred Ferguson. Gupte took 27 wickets in West Indies in 1952/3 and 34 against New Zealand at home in 1955/6. At Kanpur in 1958/9, he took nine West Indian wickets in an innings for 102 runs, and had Lance Gibbs – the only batsman he missed – dropped by wicket keeper Naren Tamhane. He once took all ten wickets in an innings for Bombay against Bahawalpur CC, and once in Lancashire league for Rishton.

His career ended in unfortunate circumstances in 1961/2. The Indian team was staying at the Imperial Hotel in Delhi during the Test against England. A.G. Kripal Singh, Gupte’s roommate, called up the receptionist and tried to fix a date with her. She complained to the Indian manager.

Since the board had already made up their minds of punishing both the players, Gupte was reprimanded by one of the board members for not stopping Kripal from using the hotel phone. Utterly disgusted by the suggestion, he responded with barely disguised indignation. “He is a big man. How can I stop him?”

“Nothing had happened,” Gupte reflected. “Kripal had not raped the girl or assaulted her, he just asked her out for a drink. Ultimately, the board took the decision that neither player should be considered for the subsequent West Indies tour.”

Gupte, who was only 32 at that time and had taken 149 wickets at 29.55 in 36 Tests, never played for India again and instead went to Trinidad and settled there, where he had married a local girl two years earlier. He even played a few first class matches for them.

Mihir Bose, in his famous book History of Indian Cricket sarcastically summed up Gupte’s career as thus: “India`s first great spinner ended his career because he happened to share a room with a man who wanted a drink with a girl.”

In 1981/2, a benefit match was held for Gupte in Sharjah.

His brother Baloo Gupte was also a leg spinner who played for India.

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