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Wisden on Grace: An Anthology Edited by Jonathan Rice

Release date: 16th March, 2015
Publisher: Wisden

List Price: £16.00
Our Price: £20.00
You Save: £-4 (-25%)
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By happy coincidence, the cricketing career of William Gilbert (“W. G”) Grace began only a year after Wisden was first published. That the great man made it into the second edition when aged just 16 is testament to his phenomenal ability. He appeared in every one thereafter too as his playing career spanned an incredible 44 years (1865-1908) and no doubt there has been mention of his extraordinary feats in most editions since.

His colossal influence upon the game was noted in the obituary published in Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack which stated that, “In no branch of sport has anyone ever enjoyed such an unquestioned supremacy.” Since his death in 1915 at the relatively young age of 67, perhaps only Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods at their respective peaks could be said to have exerted as much influence on their chosen sports as Grace did on cricket.

Grace was renowned as a large man who enjoyed his food and drink almost as much as his cricket where he was a serial innovator in the technical sense. Indeed, one Wisden report said that Grace “greatly enlarged the domain of orthodoxy,” another way of saying that some of his strokes were hardly ‘textbook’.

He was also regularly accused of sharp practice, especially later in his career, but such accusations merely serve to highlight the broadest competitive streak which saw him become the first man to score a century of hundreds – when aged 47.

Wisden acknowledged his ability to push cricket’s rules to their limit in 1897 when the almanack’s editor wrote: “Grace’s position has for years been an anomalous one, but nice customs curtsey to kings.”

Yet it would be wrong to concentrate solely on the controversies that surrounded ‘WG’ throughout an incredibly long career. Let us not forget that he had such a good batting eye that in 1874, to even one match up, Grace agreed to discard his bat and play with a broomstick – he made the game’s second-highest score. Nor was his ability limited to batting – he took ten wickets in a match on an astonishing 66 occasions.

Many of his records have been surpassed, but Grace’s pre-eminence remains unchallenged, even by greats such as Don Bradman; this wonderful book reminds us why.


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