Who claimed the most wickets for India on their first tour of the West Indies?
(16 April 2002)
Subhash Gupte was arguably India's first great leg-spinner. But when he went to the West Indies as a part of the first Indian squad to tour the Caribbean in 1953, he was still a rookie out to earn his spurs as a cricketer. His three Tests against England and Pakistan had yielded him just five wickets, and this meant that he needed to prove himself in the very first Test of that tour.
His opponents boasted a formidable batting line-up, including the three Ws - Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and Everton Weekes - and bowling to them on perfect batting strips made his task even more difficult. Weekes, in particular, was in supreme form in the first Test, plundering 207. But Gupte still managed to return very healthy bowling figures, claiming seven wickets for 162 runs, including the wicket of Weekes.
From thereon, it was a triumphant march for Gupte, who claimed two more five-wicket hauls and ended with 27 wickets at 29.22 from the 329.3 overs he bowled in the series. Only the great West Indian left-arm spinner Alf Valentine claimed more wickets in the series, going one better with 28 wickets at 29.77.
It was the beginning of a long love-affair with the West Indies for Gupte, and it was to culminate in him settling in the Caribbean after marrying a West Indian. His exploits in series against the West Indies were also to win him the ultimate accolade from the legendary Sir Garry Sobers, who called him the greatest leg-spinner of all-time.
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