'A legspinner's run-up should be perfect' - Baloo
Baloo Gupte spoke to Cricinfo a few years back about legspin bowling, his career and more
The first thing that comes to most people's mind when they talk about you of course is your brother Subhash Gupte, undoubtably one of the finest India ever produced. Why don't you talk about him a bit?
Subhash was a legspinner with a very accurate line and length, and had a tremendous legbreak and googly. He has influenced me in the sense that he told me how to bowl legbreaks and googlies. I didn't play any school cricket. In Mumbai I joined college and picked up my game there. I got a lot of guidance from Mantri and later I was able to play for Mumbai.
Talking about the 1960-61 series against Pakistan in the Madras Test, you were a little unlucky with the ball and went for 97 runs in 30 overs. If I remember you didn't pick a wicket, but then you had a famous unbroken last wicket stand of 50 plus. What are your memories of that?
I was a good batsman also. Here I must say that I played the Test match replacing my brother Subhash, who was dropped. I initially bowled well but unfortunately I didn't get a wicket. While batting I had a good stand with Chandu Borde who got a century.
Three years later, did you expect a recall against England in the 1963-64 series against England at Kanpur?
No, I was told just two days before the match that you have to fly to Kanpur. So I just took the flight and was not mentally prepared or anything. Anyway as long as one plays, one has to expect a call any time.
You were part of Bombay side which was so strong and so successful for many years. What was it like?
We had a good batting line up as well as a good bowling side. The side had players like Ramakant Desai, Ramchand and offspinner Sharad Diwadkar, left-arm spinner Bapu Nadkarni and myself. So it was a tremendous side. If one bowler failed, there were others to get at the opponents.
Coming to your last Test, it was against New Zealand in Calcutta in 1964-65? What are your memories of that?
No, I would like to forget that, for unfortunately I didn't bowl well at all.
But perhaps do you think that it was a premature end to your career?
Any cricketer would like to play, but I think I didn't bowl well to be honest.
You have taken so many wickets in the Ranji Trophy and Duleep trophy level, but somehow at the Test level, you were not so successful. What do you think is the reason for that?
I don't know. What can I say about that? I bowled well initially in the first ten or fifteen overs. But the wickets those days helped the batsman, especially the Kanpur wicket.
Looking back at the haul of 9 for 55 for West against South Zone in the Duleep trophy final in Calcutta in 1962-63, that must be the one of the high moments of your cricketing career?
Yes. I was relaxed and bowled very well and the wicket was very good. Polly Umrigar who was the captain then helped me a lot to get the nine wickets.
What then are your overall memories of your playing days?
Some of my memories are having replaced my brother Subhash Gupte in a Test match. I bowled well. The other is the inter-varsity final against Delhi University at Baroda where I took 15 wickets that time, eight wickets in the first and seven in the second innings. I bowled around 116 overs in that match. The match was played on a matting wicket which had no dust or particles. It was a good batting wicket, but I still managed to get 15 wickets. That was my best match.
I noticed you at the Wankhede Stadium during the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy (in 2000). You were enjoying the game. Obviously you enjoy cricket a lot, isn't it?
I enjoy watching cricket especially when my state side Mumbai plays. I come every year when there is a Ranji match, not only for the semifinals or final, I'm also here to see some of the league games.
So how would like to keep in touch with this game?
I just watch cricket.
But why don't you get more involved?
Because of my job, I don't have any time.
What are your words of advice for some of the talented youngsters who are just beginning to take up the game?
He should first concentrate on line and length and his run up. I learned my cricket that way from Madhav Mantri. He used to make me bowl for half an hour without a batsman and only a wicket keeper and he used to mark the good length spots and we had to bowl there.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo