Home > Features > Moments in history >

Apoorva Sengupta: A baffling Test career

CCF08042014_00000
Apoorva Sengupta was very good all-rounder, right hand opening batsman, leg-break and googly bowler and a slip fielder Photo Courtesy: Ms Meena Sengupta

 Apoorva Sengupta, born on August 3, 1939, was a competitive all-rounder. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a man with one of the most confusing Test careers.

 Apoorva Kumar Sengupta, was yet another “product” of the strong Services team of the late 1950s that reached the Ranji Trophy final twice in succession. Led by Lt Col Hemu Adhikary, the team eventually produced five other Test cricketers in the form of Chandrasekhar Gadkari, Raman Surendranath, Venkatappa Muddiah, Narain Swamy, and Sengupta himself.

Like other members of Adhikary’s team, Sengupta excelled in physical fitness — a trait Adhikary rated extremely highly. Additionally, to quote Christopher Martin-Jenkins from Who’s Who of Test cricketers, Sengupta was a “very good all-rounder, right hand opening batsman, leg-break and googly bowler and slip field.”

Military duties meant that Sengupta’s First-Class career was punctuated by wars; he could play a mere 45 matches in a career that lasted a decade, but he never lived up to his potential of the first two seasons. His career can be split in two distinct parts:

Apoorva Sengupta M R Ave 100s W Ave 5WIs
1958-59 and 1959-60

12

676

42.25

2

9

27.33

1

1960-61 to 1967-68

33

1,019

21.23

0

12

34.00

0

Total

45

1,695

26.48

2

21

31.14

1

He also played a solitary Test amidst a lot of confusion, but more of that later.

Early days

Born in Lucknow, Sengupta joined the Army in his teens, and was drafted in (almost without a warning) to the Services team against the touring West Indians at Khadakvasla. It was the West Indians’ opening match of the tour, and the poor Services side faced the brunt of Roy Gilchrist (Wes Hall was thankfully rested).

Opening batting, Sengupta top-scored with 35 in his maiden First-Class innings, adding 51 for the second wicket with Adhikary; after Services were bowled out for 170, the batsmen made merry before Gerry Alexander declared with a 138-run lead at stumps on Day Two.

The bowling attack, consisting of Gilchrist, supported by Jaswick Taylor, Garry Sobers, Eric Atkinson, and Lance Gibbs, was a formidable one: once again Atma Singh fell quickly, but once Sengupta and Adhikary added 75. Then the West Indians struck, removing Adhikari, Dani, and Gadkari in quick succession; the hosts were 130 for four when Mohinder Singh walked out to join the young debutant.

Sengupta batted almost throughout the day, and towards the end left his shell to light up the ground with some delightful strokeplay. Sengupta, then only a National Defence Academy (NDA) cadet, helped save the match and finished on 100 not out; the innings was not forgotten.

The convoluted route to Test debut

Utter confusion reigned elsewhere. Lala Amarnath, the Chairman of Selectors, had nominated Ghulam Ahmed as captain for the first Test at Brabourne Stadium, but Ghulam did not show up at the camp. Polly Umrigar was selected as captain. India managed to draw the first Test under Polly Umrigar thanks to Pankaj Roy’s 444-minute fourth innings vigil followed by a dogged partnership between Gulabrai Ramchand and Manohar Hardikar.

With Ghulam back for the second Test at Green Park, he was appointed captain: Subhash Gupte famously took nine for 102 in the first innings, India equalled West Indies’ total of 222, but Hall and Taylor turned out to be more than a handful for India as they slumped to a 203-run defeat.

Sengupta was meanwhile selected for Bihar Governor’s XI against the West Indians for another tour match, this time at Jamshedpur. The match became a no-contest (more so because Bimal Bose, the captain, could not bat in the match); Sengupta opened batting (once again he kept Gilchrist out) and scored 35 and 22.

Ghulam was meanwhile retained for the third Test at Eden Gardens. Gilchrist blew the Indians away with three for 18 and six for 55; Rohan Kanhai slammed 256 while Basil Butcher and Sobers also scored hundreds, and Indians lost by a humiliating margin of an innings and 336 runs. Ghulam resigned following the Test.

Meanwhile, Sengupta’s leg-breaks saw Delhi slump to 144 in the Ranji Trophy contest at Kotla. Sengupta finished with six for 32 (his only five-for) in the first innings, and added one more for good measure in the second. Services won by ten wickets.

The Board, meanwhile, asked Ghulam to withdraw his resignation, to which the off-spinner agreed reluctantly. The selectors also brought in Vinoo Mankad to bolster the side. Four days before the Test Ghulam surprised everyone by retiring from Tests (he never returned). With Vijay Manjrekar (then India’s best batsman) also pulling out of the Test, India were left without a leading batsman, a leading bowler, and a captain.

Amarnath re-hired Umrigar as captain and drafted in Jasu Patel for Ghulam and Sengupta for Manjrekar. Umrigar refused point-blank to lead if Patel was selected, and submitted his resignation on the evening before the Test. He was retained in the side, but till 15 minutes before the Test, nobody knew who would lead India at Chepauk.

The desperate selectors eventually cornered Mankad and dragged him to the toilet attached to the dressing-room. By the time Mankad emerged it was time for him to go out to toss in an Indian blazer; the team sheet also consisted of Sengupta’s name.

Test cricket, finally

Sengupta was, thus, thrown to the lions in his fifth First-Class match. Alexander batted, Butcher butchered (if you mind the pun) the Indian attack after John Holt and Kanhai got them to an excellent start. With Joe Solomon also joining in the fun West Indies were bowled out for 500 in the final session of Day Two.

Opening batting with Roy, Sengupta was consumed almost immediately by Hall when he was caught by Sobers for one. Roy and Kripal Singh were the only ones to put up some resistance as India were bowled out for 222. Alexander decided to bat and eventually declared on Day Four, setting a target of 447.

Things had been worsened by Mankad being ruled out due to an illness. He picked up four for 95 and batted at eight in the first innings, but did not take further part in the match. Sengupta was held back in the second innings as Roy and Nari Contractor opened, but Hall and Gilchrist’s whirlwind pace reduced the hosts to 19 for two.

This time Sengupta fared marginally better, and helping Umrigar add 26 before edging one to Alexander off Gilchrist for eight. India slumped to 151 the next day, and Sengupta never played another Test. Exactly what he had done to be dropped beats the mind, but then, that is the way Indian cricket had often worked.

Adhikary led India in the last Test at Kotla (which India drew). To add to the game of musical chairs, Datta Gaekwad was announced captain for the 1959 tour of England. He was injured after the first Test, which saw Roy lead India in the second, thus making it six captains in seven Tests — but that is another story.

Later days

Sengupta’s Test career was thus over in his teens. He had an excellent domestic season in 1959-60, scoring a valiant 45 (five batsmen scored ducks) and 146 not out against Bombay in the Ranji Trophy semi-final at Delhi. The second innings performance remained his career-best.

Sengupta continued to play for Services; he was selected for North Zone for a tour match against the Pakistanis in 1960-61 at Amritsar, but he ended up scoring a duck. Selected again for North Zone during England’s tour of India next season he managed one and two at Jullundur; he got another chance against them, this time for Services, and scored eight and a duck. He hung up his boots after Services were knocked out of the Ranji Trophy semi-final of 1967-68 following their defeat against Madras at Chepauk: he scored 31 in his last innings before being snared by Srinivas Venkataraghavan.

With frequent disturbances at both frontiers (Pakistan and China) Sengupta’s cricket appearances became sporadic. His valour saw him rise to the rank of Lt General (3 Star). He also served as the defence attache for both USA and Canada. Sengupta retired as the Colonel of the 16th Light Cavalry and DGMF. He was honoured with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM).

Post-retirement

Following retirement (from the Army) Sengupta settled down in New Delhi with his wife Meena. The couple have two sons, Amitabh and Surojit. Sengupta passed away at R & R Hospital, New Delhi on September 14, 2013.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 28, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Adelaide

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 29, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

Deodhar Trophy, 2014-15

Nov 29, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at TBC

More

Afghanistan tour of UAE, 2014

Nov 28, 2014  at Dubai

United Arab Emirates won by 5 wkts

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 28, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 21 runs

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 124 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 25 runs

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014  at Colombo

Hong Kong won by 2 wkts

Photos

Phil Hughes suffers head injury: In photos

Videos

Phil Hughes passes away: Video tribute

Sean Abbott will find the road ahead a living nightmare

Phillip Hughes’ death: What happens to India vs Australia Test series?

Phillip Hughes 63 not out, forever

Phil Hughes: Remembering his most memorable knocks

Phillip Hughes passes away: Crying for Phillip Hughes

Australia England India New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 Phil Hughes Phil Hughes Death Phil Hughes head injury Phillip Hughes Sri Lanka

Live Streaming: Sri Lanka vs England 2014, 2nd ODI at Colombo

Live Scorecard: Sri Lanka vs England, 2nd ODI at Colombo

Live Cricket Score: Sri Lanka vs England, 2nd ODI at Colombo

Michael Clarke: Words cannot express the loss we all feel as a team right now

Phil Hughes passes away: Anil Kumble extends his condolences to Hughes family

Murali Vijay in India vs Australia Test series: Will he be an integral part?

Phillip Hughes’ unfortunate demise: Ahmed Shehzad was lucky, Phil Hughes was not

Shakib Al Hasan becomes highest wicket-taker against Zimbabwe in ODIs

Phil Hughes passes away: Cricket gradually gets off and running a day later

Khurram Khan of UAE becomes 7th oldest international captain

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

682 Posts | 6 Fans

Video: Phil Hughes suffers head injury, collapses on field during New South Wales vs South Australia tie

Bigg Boss 8: OMG! Gautam Gulati draggd to the bathroom by Diandra Soares

Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe by 21 runs in 4th ODI; take 4-0 lead in series

वज़न घटाने का नुस्ख़ा #43: वज्रासन से वज़न घटायें

‘एक्शन-जैक्सन’ मूवी के लिए अजय देवगण ने कैसे वज़न घटाया

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

Bigg Boss 8 highlights: Ali Quli Mirza left alone, Gautam Gulati gets special present from Diandra Soares

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Priyanka Kothari Birthday Special: Sexy looks of the hot actress (In Pics)

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here