Subba Row was educated at Whitgift School and Cambridge University. He was a left-handed batsman and occasional leg-spin and googly bowler. Subba Row was a member of the powerful Cambridge side of the early 1950s and played a few games for Surrey before joining Northamptonshire. Taking over as captain in 1958, he led the side for four seasons and achieved considerable success as a batsman, scoring the county's highest ever innings, 260 not out, in 1955 and then bettering it with 300 against Surrey, the County Champions, at the Oval in 1958, when he shared a record sixth wicket stand of 376 with Albert Lightfoot.
Subba Row played in thirteen Test matches for England, opening the batting regularly from 1959 to 1961. He scored centuries in his first Test against the Australians in 1961, and in his last match against them at the Oval.
He was one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1961.
At the end of the 1961 season, he retired rather abruptly and prematurely from first-class cricket to go into the public relations business.
In later years, he was Chairman of Surrey (1974–78) and an influential figure at Lord's. He also served as Chairman of the TCCB, and as an ICC match referee.
There is a conference room named after him in Whitgift School.