A 'super spinner' who underperformed at the Test level

A super spinner who underperformed at the Test level

Coming to think of it, it is evident that the 100th test player for Team India had just that achievement to showcase for himself in his career of four years between 1961- 65

Coming to think of it, it is evident that the 100th test player for Team India had just that achievement to showcase for himself in his career of four years between 1961- 65. Balkrishna Pandarinath 'Baloo' Gupte (1934-2005) considered a devastating spinner of the ball with his legbreak googlies, as records reveal, had flattered to deceive massively at the highest level of the game then. A bowler who amassed 26 five wicket hauls and five 10-wicket hauls in a total of 99 matches in first class cricket couldn't reach any of his earlier impressive performances in the three tests he played for India.

In that 4-year period, Indian test team had played 22 tests, in which Baloo Gupte was featured in a mere three. His debut was against Pakistan in the fourth test of the 1960-61 series played at Chennai under the leadership of Nari Contractor, one of the famous captains of India.

Gupte bowled 35 overs conceding 116 runs in which he did not bag a single wicket. Pakistan batted first and over two days scored a massive 448/8 declared, batting for the first two days. In reply, India scored even better totaling 539 for 9 in which Chandu Borde top scored with 177 not out, followed by Polly Umrigar at 117. The match however petered out to a draw later.

Having an elder brother like Subhash Gupte (1929-2002), who is still ranked as one of the finest spinners the nation has produced was not the problem for the younger sibling Baloo. He was reputed to be a better craftsman of the game than his senior sibling. "He used to turn the ball bigger than Subhash but paled in comparison to his brother as far as flight and accuracy were concerned" said Bapu Nadkarni, the former Test left-arm spinner and Gupte's teammate, known for his accuracy, in his tribute as reported in rediff.com.

As the website report further states, his captain Nari Contractor rated him as 'a very good leg spinner'. "Like Padmakar Shivalkar, whose career clashed with that of Bapu, Baloo too was born at the wrong time when there were other contemporaries including his own brother Subhash. And when he got the chance to play for India he did not perform well," Contractor said as his tribute.

Chandu Borde, Gupte's another erstwhile teammate and a leg spinner of repute who gave up bowling because of a shoulder problem, echoed Nadkarni's views that he used to turn the ball bigger than Subash while lacking the latter's accuracy.

"If he had had better control over line and length and had he come on the scene sometime later he could have played more for the country. He was very soft-spoken and did yeoman service for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy," Borde added.

In the last of the three matches of Gupte donning the India cap, in the match against New Zealand at Eden Gardens in March 1965, he took a wicket in both innings the visitors played. While pacer Ramakant Desai took four, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, another tweaker took three in the first innings that New Zealand played. The latter repeated his performance in the second innings of the Test and the match was drawn.

However, India went on to win the 4-match home series 1-0, drawing three of them. At the age of 70, after a prolonged illness, Baloo Gupte died in Mumbai on July 5, 2005, buried under the avalanche of high expectations yet not much to show as far as career highlights went. ( Next: Kirti Azad – 150th Test player for India).

Show Full Article
Print Article
Next Story
More Stories