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I’ve looked at nicknames in the past, but for someone to be called the Father of Cricket is a serious honour. Let’s look at the man who enjoys this accolade.
Who is Known as the Father of Cricket?
While there may be some minor disagreement on the subject, the man most widely known as the father of cricket is William Gilbert Grace.
More commonly known as W.G. Grace, he enjoyed a long career for England and Gloucestershire, lasting from 1865 to 1908.
Why is He Called the Father of Cricket?
This theory is open to some debate. There have certainly been just a handful of better cricketers since his time, but W.G. Grace was the first truly great player. He set some exceptional records and his playing career that lasted 44 seasons is never going to be bettered.
He was the first cricketer to gain legendary status and, for that reason, I feel that W.G. Grace truly is the Father of Cricket.
Biography of W.G. Grace
William Gilbert Grace was born in Bristol in 1848. He qualified as a general practitioner in 1879 and that’s how he earned one of his other nicknames – The Doctor.
Medical practise aside, W.G. will always be remembered for his feats on the cricket field.
Grace played his entire county career for Gloucestershire. He made first class appearances for other teams such as the MCC and the Gentlemen while he also played in 22 test matches for England.
While that list of tests may not seem a lot, it has to be remembered that very little international cricket was played during Grace’s England career which stretched from 1880 to 1899.
Grace was a genuine all-rounder who achieved milestones with both bat and ball. In his first class career, he scored a colossal 54,211 runs and he also claimed 2,809 wickets.
W.G.’s highest first class score was 344 and his best bowling figures in an innings were 10/44. By any standards, those are exceptional numbers. His reputation was big, but Grace backs it all up with incredible statistics.
Stats and Records
W.G. Grace dominated cricket for much of his playing career. He set many records at the time and, even over more than a hundred years since his retirement, some of those have been overtaken by just a handful of men.
He also set a number of ‘firsts’ – records that were established by Grace and help to confirm his status as the Father of Cricket. He was the first English batsman to score a hundred on his test debut and only the second overall.
That highest score of 344 was also the first triple century in first class cricket. Within a week of that historic landmark, Grace had passed three figures for a second time.
As for current records, his playing career of 44 seasons is a record jointly held, while he’s still the oldest ever test match captain in history.
Facts About W. G. Grace
- Aside from the Father of Cricket and the Doctor, other nicknames attributed to Grace include The Champion, The Big ‘Un and the Old Man.
- Grace had two brothers who also played test cricket for England – Fred and Edward (E.M.).
- W.G. was a multi-talented athlete. He once hit a double century and won a 440 yard hurdle race on the same day. Grace was also the first captain of the England bowls team.
- He was one of the first cricketers to become involved in advertising endorsements, lending his image to Coleman’s Mustard.
- In his last ever game of cricket, Grace neither batted nor bowled.
WG Grace Legacy in Cricket History
It’s been more than one hundred years since W.G. Grace passed away but his legacy is still felt through the game. Although technically an amateur, it’s said that he made more money from the sport than any professional of the time.
Those endorsements would have helped. He could be a controversial character at times, but he changed the way that followers viewed players. In a sense, he was the first true ‘personality of the game’ and that’s a legacy that has been carried on by the high-profile players of today.
Then, of course, there are his statistics which were unbeatable at the time. Some records remain standing to this day and that’s a clear testament to his immense quality.
Some Quotes by WG Grace
W.G. Grace left us with some memorable words on the game of cricket. Here are just some of his best quotes.
On Captaincy: When you win the toss, bat. If you are in doubt, think about it, then bat. If you have very big doubts, consult a colleague, then bat.
On Batting: The great thing in hitting is, not to be half-hearted about it; but when you make up your mind to hit, to do it as if the whole match depended upon that particular stroke.
I don’t like defensive shots – you can only get threes.
I should like to say that good batsmen are born, not made; but my long experience comes up before me, and tells me that it is not so.
And finally – here is my favourite W.G. Grace quote which tends to sum up this great game of cricket.
A cricketer’s life is a life of splendid freedom, healthy effort, endless variety and delightful good fellowship.
So much has been written about W.G. Grace and, if you are interested, the biography by Simon Rae is recommended reading from me. It’s simply called W.G. Grace: A Life, and it’s widely available.
It’s difficult to know how to conclude. To call W.G. Grace, the best player of his generation, doesn’t even come close to describing his huge talent. He smashed records of the time and he still ranks highly for most of these.
In terms of longevity, the records that he set for longest career and oldest test captain are incredible and, I think it’s fair to say, these will never be broken. The best way to summarise him is, perhaps, with that well-earned nickname of the Father of Cricket.