June 24, 2021
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Accuracy Personified

Such was the leg-spinner's accuracy that he could land the ball on a coin again and again. More on Subhash Gupte

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Accuracy Personified

If any leg-spinner can be described as accurate, it has to be only Subhash Gupte, who it is said, could land the ball on a coin again and again.

There have been great leggies in the history of cricket -- from Clarrie Grimmett to Shane Warne -- but none commanded as much respect from the batsmen as the 5' 8-1/2" Gupte did.

As a matter of fact, Sir Garfield Sobers, the greatest all-rounder the game has known, is on record saying Gupte was a very difficult bowler to negotiate as he rarely bowled a bad ball. An opinion, Sobers shared with mentor and captain, Sir Frank Worrell.

His leg-break was sharp and his googly well concealed and he varied the flight so cleverly that the best of batsmen were at their wit's end.

After an uneventful debut against Nigel Howard's English team at Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1951-52, Gupte blossomed into becoming part of the spin trio -- the great left-arm Vinoo Mankad and offie Ghulam Ahmed being the other two -- which sustained the Indian bowling attack through the 1950s.

The trio -- forerunners of the great spin quartet of Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, B.S. Chandrasekar and S. Venkataraghavan - operated in unison to pose problems to many a great batting side.

But, unlike the quartet who had excellent close-in catchers like Eknath Solkar, Abid Ali, Ajit Wadekar and Venkataraghavan himself, Mankad, Gupte and Ghulam had to be content with notoriously butter-fingered Indian fielding of those days.

Otherwise, a bowler of Gupte's calibre would have had a richer crop than the 149 wickets he took in 36 Tests conceding 4403 runs for an average of 29.55.

Like his citymate Sunil Gavaskar, who also excelled in his batting against the West Indies, Gupte always bowled well against the Caribbeans.

The climax to a wonderful career was his spectacular feat of becoming the first Indian to take nine wickets in an innings -- in the second Test against Gerry Alexander-led West Indies at Kanpur in 1958-59.

After hanging up his cricket boots in 1961, it was no wonder Gupte, born on December 11, 1929, migrated to Trinidad and settled down in San Fernando with his West Indies-born wife of Indian origin, Carol, and son Anil and daughter Anita.


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