Clarrie Grimmett: The first and the fastest to ace 200 Test wickets

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Clarrie Grimmett: The first and the fastest to ace 200 Test wickets

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Prasenjit Dey

09/26/2016

With his 200th Test wicket in the recently concluded first Test against New Zealand, Ravichandran Ashwin became the second fastest bowler to reach the milestone.However, his special feat also reminded us of a fine Australian wrist spinner, whose name had been long forgotten.

Ravichandran Ashwin is arguably the best spinner in this era of cricket. With his 200th Test wicket in the recently concluded first Test against New Zealand he became the fastest Indian and second fastest bowler overall to reach the milestone. However, his special feat also reminded us of a fine Australian wrist spinner, whose name had long been forgotten.

Clarence Victor Grimmett, or better known as Clarrie Grimmett, was one of the finest Australian  spinners of all time. He registered his 200th Test wicket in his 36th Test match in 1936 and no one has been able to better it yet. Although, Ravichandran Ashwin did come close to the record, it took him 37 Test matches to reach the milestone. And the record Grimmett created still remains unbroken 80 years down the line. Although, Grimmett represented Australia in 37 Tests, he was actually born in New Zealand. It was on the Christmas Day of 1891 that the world was blessed with the birth of this Australian legend in New Zealand that led Bill O’Reilly, another contemporary Australian leg spinner and Grimmett’s partner in crime, to state that “He must have been the best Christmas present Australia ever received from that country.”

He(Grimmett) must have been the best Christmas present Australia ever received from New Zealand.

Australian spin legend, Bill O'Reilly

Grimmett first had his moment of fame at the young age of fifteen when he took 6 for 5 and 8 for 1 for Wellington Schools in a representative match. And by the time he was seventeen, he was playing first class cricket for Wellington. New Zealand was not a Test playing nation in those days which compelled Grimmett to respond to his inner calling of moving to Australia to play cricket of the highest order. He moved to Australia in 1914 and got a chance to play club cricket for Sydney for the next three years.

Grimmett, apart from making the batsmen dance to his leg-breaks, was very quick in bowling his overs that didn’t allow the batsman breathing time. He was also the pioneer of the ‘flipper’ delivery that he used as a mighty weapon in his bowling armory. It is said that he had a tremendous temperament and also accuracy which even could challenge the modern day bowling machines. He later moved on to Melbourne after marrying a Victorian girl and mostly because of the arrival of Arthur Mailey to New South Wales, who was one of the greatest spinners of that time. Grimmett didn’t get a fair share of opportunities to play at the highest level but when he did, he made people sit up and down as he spun his magic with the ball. In his six years in Melbourne, he played only thrice for Victoria, picking up 8/81 in his last of those three opportunities that pushed his name straight into the Australian team-sheet. 

It was in February, 1925 that fortune had finally rewarded Grimmett for his hard work and love for the game as he made his debut for Australia at the age of 33. He ripped apart the English side with his 5-45 and 6-37 on his debut in front of a crowd of 40,000 people at Sydney. He went on to become a crucial member of the Australian side bowling some phenomenal spells over the years. He took 29 wickets on their tour to England in 1930, which was a record at that time. Next he picked up 33 wickets each in the home series against West Indies and South Africa and then again picked up 25 in England in 1934. Bill O’ Reilly, Grimmett’s partner in crime, bettered him on that tour of England picking up 28 wickets. It was in 1936 in the Series against South Africa, that Clarrie Grimmett became the first man ever to pick up 200 Test wickets. He also set a record of 44 wickets against South Africa in that series which still stands today.

Clarrie Grimmet also set a record of 44 wickets against South Africa in 1936 series which still stands today.

In an era when Australian Batsman Sir Don Bradman ruled and mesmerized the world with his batting prowess, it was Grimmett who can be regarded as the ‘Bradman with the ball’ for Australia in those years. He played his last Test match, the 37th one, in that very South Africa series, picking up 13 wickets and taking his tally to a total of 216 wickets. He was still very functional as a bowler at the age of 44 when he played his last Test. Unfortunately, other people were not convinced and hence his career was brought to an end to infuse younger blood into the team. But still he continued to play Sheffield Shield Cricket and kept showing his well-functioning googlies, flippers and leg breaks to pick up wickets consistently. In the 1939-40 Sheffield Shield season, which was his last, Grimmett picked up 73 wickets taking his tally to 513 wickets in 79 Shield matches. He passed away on 2nd May, 1980 at the age of 88 and was later on inducted posthumously both into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame and ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 1996 and 2009 respectively. 

Clarrie Grimmett is no more between us today, but his legacy still lives among us. His record is still untouched, his mastery with the ball  still unmatched! His story will always serve as an inspiration to players who get very few opportunities to prove themselves at the highest level. If somebody is good enough, the opportunity will arrive. It may be late but it won’t mean the end of the world. One has to carry on the hard work and keep playing the game because it is not about the opportunities one wants; it is all about the game that one loves.

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