WG Grace Biography
WG Grace, the father of modern cricket, is a legend even in the elite club which allows only sublime, hallowed names.
During his days, only the Queen, and arguably William Gladstone, were more readily recognisable to the common Englishman. Trains used to be held up as people scurried to shake the great, huge ham of a hand.
Then there was the beard. Even in those days when facial hair sprouted luxuriant and lavish, WG was miles ahead in texture and density – often resembling The Creator of the Old Testament. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail the face of God that speaks stirringly to the knights is the animated image of WG. It was apt.
On cricket grounds, notices announced: “Admission threepence. If Dr WG Grace plays admission sixpence.”
He was the first to master both forward and back play, hits towards off and leg, was a synthesis of all styles seen in cricket till then. It was said that he turned the old one-stringed instrument into a many-chorded lyre.
WG topped 1,000 runs in 28 seasons, 2,000 in five. Between 1868 and 1877, he was twice as good as the next best. He thrived through the 1880s and, even after his middle-age spread, enjoyed an Indian summer in 1895 at the age of 47. Grace hit 152 on Test debut in 1880. Till 1899, an England XI without him was unthinkable. He scored his final First-Class hundred just after his 56th birthday.
He also captured more than 100 wickets nine times, starting with round-arm medium and moving on to looping slows. In his youth an excellent outfielder, in later years he specialised at point — partly to chatter to the batsman.
A master of gamesmanship, he tried every trick in the game to snatch a win. And often he made more money than all the rest of the players put together — while masquerading as an amateur.
And all this while, he made his living as a general practitioner.
Did Grace really replace the bails and carry on batting after being bowled? Did he really call out ‘The Lady’ during the toss? The facts are too inseparably fused with apocrypha. Many stories are shared with the disclaimer, “Just the sort of thing the Old Man would have said.”
According to GK Chesterton: “WG, the bulky sprite, was a prodigious Puck in a truly English midsummer day’s dream.”