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A Many-Chorded Lyre : Stylish batting in cricket is about variety, invention and frankly anything that works, and we have Dr W.G. Grace to thank for it.
A Many-Chorded Lyre

From ‘The Jubilee Book of Cricket’ (1897) by K. S. Ranjitsinhji.

K. S. Ranjitsinhji, the great Indian batsman, gives his assessment of the significance of Dr W. G. Grace in the history of cricket. For the good Doctor, batting was not about a narrowly perfect style but about getting runs, making batting more inventive and exciting to watch.

BEFORE W. G. batsmen were of two kinds, — a batsman played a forward game or he played a back game. Each player, too, seems to have made a specialty of some particular stroke. The criterion of style was, as it were, a certain mixed method of play. It was bad cricket to hit a straight ball; as for pulling a slow long-hop, it was regarded as immoral.

What W. G. did was to unite in his mighty self all the good points of all the good players, and to make utility the criterion of style. He founded the modern theory of batting by making forward- and back-play of equal importance, relying neither on the one nor on the other, but on both.

Any cricketer who thinks for a moment can see the enormous change W. G. introduced into the game. I hold him to be, not only the finest player born or unborn, but the maker of modern batting. He turned the old one-stringed instrument into a many-chorded lyre.*

* Bowling has taken a century to catch up with Grace’s innovative batting, but T20 cricket is having a similar effect today on bowling styles, as the distinction in any given over between seam, swing and spin, or fast, medium-paced and slow, becomes increasingly blurred.

From ‘The Jubilee Book of Cricket’ (1897) by K. S. Ranjitsinhji.

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Picture: Photo by Herbert Rose Barraud (1845-1896), Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
Dr W.G. Grace, the towering figure of Victorian and Edwardian cricket, whose career spanned over four decades. According to Ranji, it was Grace who pioneered modern batting in the sense that he was the first to focus on getting runs by any means possible, rather than playing the limited range of shots that belonged to a particular style.
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