Clarrie Grimmett Biography
His offerings were full of the most devilish invention, but when he ran up the few paces to deliver them, he was almost bashful. Seldom was his appeal for leg-before heard in the outfield, let alone ride the waves to reach the spectators. It was almost an apologetic enquiry.
He used to hustle through his overs on his almost dainty feet, as if in a hurry to remove his small frame from the spotlight. So much so, that once during a club match in Sydney the great Monty Noble admonished him because the one-and-half-minute overs were not allowing the fast bowler at the other end sufficient time to recover.
Yet, for all his briskness, the ingenuity in each of his deliveries seldom gave the greatest of batsmen any moment of peace. Grimmett was the most confirmed miser. He hated runs scored off him and only once in his career did he commit the cardinal sin of bowling a no-ball. Indeed, tidiness rather than turn was his weapon of choice.
His variations were intriguing while his accuracy metronomic. He seldom beat the batsman with huge turn. He fooled them with subtle deceptive alterations while maintaining tantalising line and length. Hardly anyone witnessed him bowl a long hop. While he excelled at the orthodox leg-break and the wrong ’un, his greatest contribution to the abstract art of leg-spin was probably the development of the flipper. Squeezed out of the front of the hand with the thumb and first and second fingers, this productive delivery was perfected by Grimmett through years and years of practice.
Grimmett was so hooked to the flipper that once Don Bradman joked that he had forgotten his orthodox leg-break. That innings he bowled the Australian legend by pitching on the great man’s leg stump and taking the off bail.
For Australia, he bowled much in tandem with Bill O’Reilly, the great leg- spinner with the spirit of a fast bowler. In contrast, Grimmett was almost self-effacing. O’Reilly’s aggression led him to be nicknamed Tiger while Grimmett’s small build led to the various aliases including Grum, Gram, Gnome and Fox. O’Reilly’s brow, balding prematurely, glistened with sweat. Grimmett, in more advanced stages of hair-loss, always had his cap firmly fixed on his head — lest his bare crown betrayed the advancing years and made the selectors concur that he was too old.
His worst fears finally came true as the selectors had suddenly laid stress on his age — which stood at 44. He had just captured 13 wickets at Durban in what remained his final Test, and had scalped a record 44 wickets on the trip. However, he never played again. Perhaps Bradman, the new captain, had something to do with this.
Nevertheless, the 37 Tests he managed to play brought him 216 wickets, at a scorching rate of nearly six per Test, at an average of 24.21. He became the first bowler in the history of Test cricket to capture 200 wickets.