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When Subhash Gupte narrowly missed taking all ten wickets in an innings against the West Indies

When Subhash Gupte narrowly missed taking all ten wickets in an innings against the West Indies

Had wicket-keeper Naren Tamhane not dropped Lance Gibbs, Subhash Gupte (above) would have got all ten wickets in the West Indies innings. Caricature by Austin Coutinho

Subhash Gupte became the first Indian to pick up nine wickets in a Test innings on December 12, 1958. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when a glitch from Naren Tamhane stopped ‘Fergie’ from emulating Jim Laker.
The best innings figures by an Indian in a Test that Jasu Patel broke broke against Australia in the 1959 Kanpur Test had belonged to Subhash “Fergie” Gupte. Surprisingly, the record had only been a year old, and had been set at the very same Green Park – a Test that had started on December 12, 1958.
It was a no-contest series – one that West Indies went on to win 3-0. India had to resort to use four captains in the series for reasons on and off the ground; like Patel’s Test a year later, this was also the second Test of the series. Gupte had taken six wickets in the first Test at Bombay that had ended in a draw; despite the result Umrigar was replaced as captain by Ghulam Ahmed.

After John Holt and Conrad Hunte added 55 for the first wicket, Gupte struck, and kept on striking. Hunte was followed by Gary Sobers for four and Rohan Kanhai for a duck. Gupte also removed Holt, and then picked up Basil Butcher and Collie Smith. From 55 for one, West Indies were reduced to 88 for six, and India sensed a collapse.

However, with Gupte threatening to run through the West Indian line-up, Ghulam Ahmed did something that baffled everyone; he took Gupte off, and brought himself on. By the time he was through with his innocuous spell of 10 overs, Joe Solomon and Gerry Alexander had bailed West Indies out of the situation.

Gupte was brought back. He removed Solomon, but not before they had put on a 100 runs for the seventh wicket; Gupte came back to trap Solomon leg before; and then, Naren Tamhane dropped Lance Gibbs off Gupte, who, just like Patel a year later, missed his opportunity to get 10 wickets in an innings.

Vasant Ranjane bowled through Gibbs’ defense. Gupte took the other two wickets – including Alexander’s. But the damage had already been done. Gupte had registered the best bowling haul by an Indian till then – 34.3-11-102-9 – and had become the first Indian to take nine scalps in an innings.

Pankaj Roy and Nari Contractor added 93 for the first wicket, and Umrigar resisted to some extent, but Wes Hall blew out the Indians for 222 – putting them exactly at par with the West Indian first inning score. West Indies lost both openers with zero on the board, but Sobers hit the Indians all over Green Park, amassing 198, and then, after another 99-run first wicket stand, India succumbed to Hall for 240.

Gupte played two more series before he was shown the doors rather unceremoniously by the selectors because, as someone had said, his roommate had asked a girl out for a drink. Gupte, perhaps the best spinner to have played for India, and has been generally regarded by many – most significantly, Sobers – as the greatest leg-spinner he has ever played.
Brief scores:

West Indies 222 (Gerry Alexander 70; Subhash Gupte 9 for 102) and 443 for 7 declared (Garry Sobers 198, Joe Solomon 86, Basil Butcher 60) bt India 222 (Polly Umrigar 57; Wes Hall 6 for 50) and 240 (Nari Contractor 50; Hall 5 for 76).

(A hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiac by his own admission, Abhishek Mukherjee is a statistical analyst based in Kolkata, India. He typically looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – not necessarily as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the game with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a rather steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers the sport has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks and googlies in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in)

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