William Gilbert Grace, 18 July 1848–23 October 1915, is known as the “Father of Cricket.” He was an English amateur cricketer who was prominent in the cricket sport’s growth and one of its all time greatest cricketers. WG Grace was ‘born in the atmosphere of cricket’. He was a die-hard cricket fan who always served cricket sport.
He spent almost every possible minute of his life playing cricket (or telling people about how he played cricket and how to play cricket genuinely). A clean- shaven, fifteen-year-old William Gilbert Grace first notified the game of his skill with a series of big scores–his batting revolutionized the way of cricket was played, and his personality the way it was organised and promoted.
As a batsman, no cricketer before him had ever spent as much time simply working on his game, perfecting the technique – and inventing batting. Grace performed something that was both commonplace for modern cricketers and unheard of at the time. He moved according to where the ball was pitched. If he needed to move forward, he would. If he needed to move back, he would. According to the Father of Indian cricket Maharajah Ranjitsinhji, Grace “transformed the traditional one-stringed instrument into a many-chorded lyre.
At the age of 16, William Gilbert Grace made his first-class debut in 1865. After scoring 224 runs undefeated for an All-England side against Surrey in 1866, he rapidly became known as the first cricket superstar. Such huge scores were incredibly uncommon at the time. He gained widespread recognition as the greatest cricket player ever. He became “the biggest name in cricket and the main spectator attraction” from that point on. He was already recognised to as the father of cricket at the age of only 18.
His batting manner was as sparse, strong and clean as Gregorian plain-chant, and it was highly attractive for that reason. His eagerness to play cricket, from practice in the shivery days of later winter through to matches on the darkening evenings of autumn, was legendary. From infancy beyond what now would be retiring age, he played and played day after day, at every level from village green to the Test arena.
He was a technician, and his game was built around a well-thought-out, well honed technique, the capacity to see the ball early, and the ability to consistently pick the right shot. He was always balanced while he batted, just like all truly great ones are, no matter what was bowled at him. No other batsman at the time or since has used a bat closer to the pad, and when he went back, which he mostly did, he went straight back and across, his head over the boundary.
WG Grace created footwork. Grace was a representative man of his time, and as such, he transformed cricket into a national event, a spectacle as well as a game. He was so good that he built new cricket stadiums. Cricket fans flocked to see WG Grace and his fantastic cricket playing style.
He topped the first class averages 10 times between 1868 and 1880 (the year of his Test debut), including seven years in a row from 1874 until that year. He recorded 54 first class hundreds in England between 1868 and 1876. Nobody else scored even 10. Grace averaged more than 49 in first class cricket throughout the years 1871 to 1880, while no one else could do more than 26 or reach even a third of Grace’s runs.
By hitting 2139 runs and taking 106 wickets in 1873, WG became the first man to complete the “double” in an English first class season (1000 runs and 100 wickets). The following year, he swiftly repeated it, continuing to do so until 1878, then twice more in the1880s. No other player achieved the feat until 1882, and it wasn’t until 1899 that someone else scored 2000 runs and got 100 wickets in a season.
He scored 344 runs for the MCC in a single week in August 1876 in Canterbury against Kent before returning home to his county of Gloucestershire the following day by train. There, he scored 177 not out against Nottinghamshire and 318 not out against Yorkshire. 839 runs at 419.5 overall.
In Grace’s age, however, Test cricket was not so well established as the pinnacle of the game therefore he could played for England in 22 Tests through the 1880s and 1890s, all of them against Australia in which he scored total 1098 runs at 32.29 with two centuries. Making 1098 runs in just 22 test matches expresses his glory how awesome batsmen he was.
Father of cricket, WG Grace made his Test debut at 32 at The Oval in 1880. This was the first ever test match played on English soil, Grace scored England’s first Test century. He was the second batsman (after Charles Bannerman) to score a Test hundred on debut. Additionally, he and Bunny Lucas put on a second wicket partnership of 120 runs, the first 100 runs partnership in the history of test cricket.
His innings of 152 was a Test record for just two days, as Murdoch scored 153 not out in Australia’s second innings. Grace reachieved the record when he scored 170 at The Oval in 1886, an innings that remained the greatest by any England batsmen in Tests for eight years.
When he was 47 years old, he scored 1,000 runs before the end of May (a feat never before accomplished), and recording his 100th hundred in first class cricket at a period when no one else had managed more than 41.
He captained England in 13 Test matches, all against Australia, and he won eight and lost only two. In his farewell game, the first Test, played at Trent Bridge in 1899, he still holds the record for the oldest man to captain his country in a Test at the age of 50 years and 320 days.
The day after turning 56, he scored 166 runs for London County during his final two seasons of first-class cricket. He scored 74 for the Gentlemen against the Players two years later, exactly on his 58th birthday. This was his final significant first class performance, but he played club cricket for another ten years. A week after his 66th birthday, he played his last recorded game at any level, scoring 69 not out. Until the end, unbeaten!
William Gilbert Grace revolutionized cricket. He is the real king of cricket. He served as the fulcrum for the game’s transition from a shadowy legendary past into real-world history. His class was for the benefit of cricket and brought attention to the game. His technique and contribution helped make cricket the most popular sport in the world forever.
And as big as cricket was, WG Grace was bigger and cricket’s genius. Many of the gentlemen took a beautiful game and tried to own it, monetize it and sell it. But Grace was different, he spread and popularised this beautiful cricket sport to everyone and everywhere. As a result, he deservedly gained the title “father of cricket.”