Sir Garry Sobers has in his lifetime seen a great number of Legspinners. He has faced Benaud, Chandrashekhar and Intikhab Alam in his playing days. He has then seen Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Mutthaiah Murali (who bowled Legspin frequently along with his staple off spin).
And he has said : “Someone who is called great from today’s game is Shane Warne, but I have got my reservations about Shane, I think he is a great bowler, but I’m not sure how well he compares with spinners overall. I think people get carried away with this man’s ability as he hardly ever bowled a good googly.
“To me, Shane Warne is a great turner of the ball. I like his aggressive attitude, I love the way he attacks batsmen and I give him 100% for that as not enough spinners bowl with that approach, but in my estimation Subhash Gupte was a better legspinner.”
Gupte played 36 Tests from 1951 to 1961 and finished with 149 wickets at 29.55; he only once dismissed Sobers in the five Tests in which they met.
Had it not been for the eccentricities and the high handedness of BCCI in those days, Gupte could have achieved much more.
Gupte’s international career ended under controversial circumstances during England’s 1961–62 tour of India. During the Third Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, the team stayed at the Imperial hotel, where Gupte was housed in room number 7 along with teammate A. G. Kripal Singh. During the stay, a receptionist at the hotel lodged a complaint with the India team manager against inmates of that room accusing them of calling her over after her shift finished. The pair denied the allegation, with Gupte, who was married at the time, explaining that Singh had merely called and asked for drinks to be brought up.
The matter was taken up by the authorities seriously before both were suspended from the team. Gupte later recollected that, M. A. Chidambaram, the President of the BCCI during the time, did not give him a hearing in Calcutta, the venue of the Fourth Test, as promised. The hearing was eventually held in Madras where the selectors and the BCCI met to pick the squad for the tour of the Caribbean. Gupte was reprimanded by the BCCI secretary A. N. Ghosh for having not stopped Singh from making the call, to which he replied, “He is a big man. How can I stop him?”. Both players were dropped from the squad for the tour and never played for India again.
Subhash Gupte played 10 tests against the West Indies, and the Windies showered love on him. They nicknamed him Fergie, after their best leggie of the time, Wilfred Fergusson.
And Gupte also met the love of his life, Carol Gobardhan (must be of Indian ancestry, as the name is much similar to Goverdhan in pronunciation) in 1953 at a cricket game in Skinner Park and they saw each other for two weeks under heavy chaperone. When he went back to India, they stayed in touch and she went on to study for her degree. They could not afford telephone calls and in 1957, they finally got married, and returned to live in India. Their first two children, Carolyn and Anil were born in India.
Gupte’s premature exit from the world of cricket and forced re-entry into a new life in Trinidad in 1963, had not been easy on the family. After moving, Gupte took up a job as a salesman in a sports store. A few years later, in 1965 he got a job as liaison officer with a sugar company. The company had its own primary school and Carol was hired as the principal. She started her own private school in 1972. “It [the shift] required a great deal of sacrifice, patience, understanding and love—especially on my mother’s part. With two small children under the age of five, there were many financial considerations and other decisions which required careful planning.” – Writes Carolyn Gupte, his daughter.
They lived a happy life, but not without fighting through tough situations.
Subhash Gupte suffered from heavy diabetes and was finally “forgiven” by BCCI in 2001, by conferring the lifetime achievement award on him.
He kept visiting India on and off, one such instance being in 1978, when he had visited his colleague, Vinoo Mankad. In the 1950s, Gupte, Vinoo Mankad and Ghulam Ahmed was the spin troika of the Indian spin bowling, who operated in tandem like a well-oiled machine.
In 1978, Mankad was in his last fight before being declared out of the world by the supreme Umpire, Gupte paid him a visit. Barely able to speak or communicate, Mankad was invalid. Gupte couldn’t figure out if his old spin colleague had recognised him or not. He went near Mankad’s ear, and asked, “Do you know who I am?”
A faint smile appeared on Vinoobhai’s face. His right hand rose very slowly, and fingers curled into a leg-spinner’s grip on an imaginary ball. Mankad hadn’t forgotten Subhash Gupte.
India Should not forget Subhash Gupte either. The first bowler to get a nine-for for India, which would easily have been a perfect ten, if keeper Naren Tamhane had not dropped Lance Gibbs’ catch.
Gupte died in 2002 in Port-of-Spain at the age of 72.