Whenever the question of who is the father of cricket arises, the first name that comes to mind is – Sir William Gilbert Grace. English cricketer William Gilbert Grace or popularly known as WG Grace is commonly known as the father of cricket.
For the modern era cricket fan, this name may be quite obscure. After all, they grew up hearing tales of Donald Bradman, Sir Ian Botham, Viv Richards, Garry Sobers and Sachin Tendulkar. But WG Grace had a storied cricket career and left an incredible legacy in cricket history. In fact, he had such a big impact on the sport that the way we play international cricket in this generation can also be credited to him.
Today, the sport of cricket is played in nearly 150 countries and is rapidly growing in Europe and even in the United States. Test playing nations like India, England, Australia and New Zealand are absolute power houses of the sport while associate countries are also catching up soon.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) as well as the big cricket boards like Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and England Cricket Board (ECB) have done a lot to promote the sport and take it to a global level.
However, before the pioneering approach taken by these organizations, in the early 20th century, cricket was still a leisurely activity. First class cricket didn’t even qualify as a professional sport. This is where WG Grace’s contribution to the sport comes in as he completely changed the way the game is played.
Let us find out more about the father of cricket – Sir William Gilber Grace
Who is the father of cricket – William Gilbert Grace
As mentioned already, English cricket pioneer Sir William Gilbert Grace is known as the father of cricket. The legendary sportsperson was born on August 18, 1848 near Bristol in South west England. He was born to George Pocock while Fred Grace and E.M. Grace were his brothers.
It goes without saying that limited overs cricket like One Day Internationals and T20 Internationals didn’t exist during his time. In addition to playing cricket for Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), that was the governing body of the sport’s control before the formation of the ICC and still holds considerable influence, he also played for Gloucestershire and London County.
With a rich and storied first class career, Sir William Grace made his Test debut against Australia in 1880 and ended his Test cricket career against them in 1889 when he decided to hang up his shoes.
It is believed that at least 13 direct relatives of W.G. Grace played in the English first class arena. W.G. Grace also played for England along with his brothers Fred and Edward, becoming the first men to do so.
The legacy left by the Grace family on English cricket is legendary and unparalleled.
Why is William Gilbert Grace called the father of cricket?
Modern cricket fans will tell you that former Australian legend Sir Don Bradman and former Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar deserved the tag of the father of cricket. While both those personalities have left an incredible legacy on the sport and had legendary career, the reason why W.G. Grace holds that honour is because he spent a whopping 44 seasons in first-class cricket. He ended his career, having played 870 first class matches at a time when cricket wasn’t even taken seriously. He spent his entire life and career and sacrificed a lot to make the sport great and make it professional.
His contribution was such an incredible one that even 107 years after his passing away, cricket lovers still remember him fondly. He scored 126 centuries and 254 half-centuries during his outstanding and unbelievable first class career.
The father of cricket William Grace was considered a pioneer when it came to all the three aspects of the sport. He was polished as a bowler and fielder, but it is his for his batting that he is most renowned. Grace’s technical innovations as well as enormous influence on his peers and teammates left a lasting legacy.
For so big a man, he had an incredible batting technique and was surprisingly tenacious on very small points. He has been described by many to be a ‘very correct batsman’ and he is said to have invented the modern approach to batsmanship. W.G. Grace usually opened the innings and was a master and perfectionist when it came to stroke-making. He had a wonderful level of expertise that was often unique and he also captained the cricket matches of the teams he generally represented because of his knowledge of the game, instinct as well as tactical acumen.
It also goes without saying that during his illustrious cricketing career, WG Grace set a majority of cricket records at the time. Although there are debates surrounding his numbers and records given how old they are, he is said to hold several achievements. Grace holds the record for the most number of first class matches played in a career with 870 appearances. He has scored the fifth highest number of runs in first class cricket and his batting average of 39.45 was double his bowling average of 18.17.
In 1876, he is said to have scored as many as 839 runs in just eight days during which he made a century as well as two triple tons. Between the years of 1868 and 1876, he amassed 54 first-class centuries! He took the second most wickets in the 1870s when he scalped 1174 first-class cricket.
William Gilbert Grace is said to be the first player to score 100 centuries. W.G. Grace is also said to have taken 100 wickets in a season on nine different occasions.
WG Grace’s contribution to the sport
Did you know that despite his incredible career as a career, William Gilbert Grace was also a full-time doctor? Known for his excellent skill as a practitioner and his generosity, Grace often cared for the neediest members of society and was famous for his unselfishness.
With his career spanning a jaw-dropping 44 first-class seasons, WG Grace scored over 54,000 runs and took over 2,800 wickets. Such long-lasting consistency makes him one of the greatest players to have ever played the game and with over 870 catches in first-class cricket, he holds his own place in the pantheon of great cricketing all-rounders.
When the Grace family played cricket, the sport was divided into Professionals known as the Gentlemen and Amateurs known as the Players. The two sections were often divisive and ther was a class gap to it. However, W.G. Grace played a major role in bridging the gap and became an integral part of both groups of players.Most professionals were too busy maintaining their social status and were afraid to mix with the lower classes, while Grace was etching his name in the history of cricket and demanding a handsome match fee in every game he played.
As one of the earliest members of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), Grace invested his time and energy into shaping and reforming the rules of cricket and it was during his period that the three stumps in the wicket became a norm. He helped develop the sport into what it is today.
Much like Sir Don Bradman’s dominance during Ashes and his celebrated 99.94 average, Viv Richards’ elegance, Shoaib Akhtar’s pace and Sachin Tendulkar’s bonafide genius, W.G. Grace’s tales and achievements are a part of cricket’s most celebrated stories. He was once reported to replace the bails after being bowled and refuse to walk off the field stating, ‘The fans have come to see me play – not you’.
William Grace also had a larger than life status. While he was a thorough professional on the pitch, he had a penchant for beer off it. He was also a champion 440-yard hurdler as a young man and even played football for the Wanderers. In his later life, he developed enthusiasm for golf, lawn bowls and curling. Grace was an extremely competitive player and, although he was one of the most famous men in England, he was also one of the most controversial on account of his gamesmanship and moneymaking.
Grace’s legacy remains firmly established in England cricket. The entrance to the iconic Lord’s is known as the Grace Gates – a testament to the impact he has had on English and international cricket for over 150 years on from his first professional game.
Which country played cricket for the first time?
England played cricket for the first time and helped spread the game to its colonies. The first ever cricket match was played between England and Australia.
Who is called the God of Cricket?
Australia’s Donald Bradman and India’s Sachin Tendulkar are popularly known as the God of Cricket.