Clarrie Grimmett: 14 interesting facts about the Australian spin wizard who discovered the flipper
Can there be a better Santa-Cricketer than Mike Gatting?

Clarrie Grimmett, born December 25, 1891, was an Australian leg-spin bowler regarded as one of the finest to have touched the red cherry. Credited with discovering the flipper, Grimmett vexed some of the most ingenious and proficient batting masters of his era, including but not limited to Jack Hobbs and Wally Hammond in Test matches, and also his teammate the great Sir Donald Bradman in domestic cricket. He formed a pernicious spin bowling pair with another leg-break bowler Bill O’Reilly. When bowling in tandem the duo conjured a cataclysmic black magic with their dexterity of fingers and wrists making life difficult for the best of batters in the 1930s. On Grimmett’s 124th birth anniversary, Bhaskar Narayan scans through 14 interesting facts about the cricketer who passed away three and a half decades ago.

1.  Australian of kiwi descent: Grimmett was born on the Christmas day in Caversham, a suburb in the city of Dunedin in the Otago region of New Zealand in 1891. In 1914, at approximately 23 years of age he went to Australia on a vacation but ultimately ended up settling in the nation. He started playing for the Sydney Club and continued playing for Sydney District Cricket for the next three years. He later married an Australian from Victoria and settled in the state’s capital Melbourne.

2.  Nicknames: Grimmett had many monikers, which he garnered both out of friendship and veneration. He was called ‘Grum’ (short for his surname), ‘Scarlet’, ‘The Gnome’ and ‘The Fox’.

3.  Wished to become a pace bowler: Not many know that Grimmett wanted to become a fast bowler but owing to his school teacher’s suggestion he took to spin bowling. Cricket will remain forever grateful to Grimmett’s teacher to have done the game a great service.

4.  Bowling style: Grimmett had an impeccable line and length and also used a lot of variations in his bowling. He discovered the flipper and got lots of wickets through this delivery. Besides the flipper, he also had the leg-break, topspin and the googly in his armoury. He was sometimes criticised for over-bowling the flipper. It is believed that Bradman once jokingly said that he had forgotten Grimmett as a leg-spinner since he bowled flippers a lot too often.

[Note: A flipper is a back spin delivery (ball which starts rotating backwards after leaving the hand; opposite of top-spin) usually bowled by a leg spinner. The thumb, middle and index finger are used to bowl the delivery. A flipper doesn’t rise like a conventional spin ball but keeps low after hitting the pitch. Thus, it becomes difficult for a batsman to play it if it is cleverly mixed up with normal leg spin deliveries. The direction in which the ball is moving results in a thrust which raises the ball due to Magnus effect, causing it to stay in the air longer and therefore pitch closer to the batsman than conventional deliveries.]

5.  Domestic cricket: Grimmett played his debut First-Class match for Wellington as a 17-year-old. New Zealand did not have Test status at that time. Around five-and-a-half years later, he shifted to Australia and started playing for Victoria and also South Australia. He played 248 First-Class matches in which he picked up 1,424 wickets averaging 22.28 with a strike rate of 51.9. In Sheffield Shield he has 513 scalps to his name from 79 matches, a record unbroken till date. Michael Kasprowicz is next in the list with 441 wickets. Grimmett once took 10 wickets in an innings in a First-Class match. Only a select few bowlers have been able to do so.

6.  Delayed Test debut:  Grimmett made his Test debut as a 33-year-old on February 27, 1925 against England at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and took 11 wickets in the match helping Australia to a 307-run victory. Within a few Tests since that day he left a prodigious impact on the game and proved the selectors to have made a blunder for not picking him early on in his career. Overall, Grimmett represented Australia in 37 Tests taking 216 wickets at 24.21 with a strike rate of 67.1.

7.  Broke Sydney Barnes’ record, also first to scalp 200 Test wickets: Grimmett broke the then record of Sydney Barnes’ 189 Test wickets. He was also the first bowler in Test history to take 200 wickets. Later, Alec Bedser with his 236 wickets eclipsed Grimmet’s record. Today, Muttiah Muralitharan holds the record for most Test wickets. Grimmett got to bowl in 67 innings of his 37 Tests. Thus, he has 15 more wickets than three wickets per innings (67*3= 201). His wickets per innings are 216/37=3.223. If we stack him up against a few other great spin bowlers, this is what we get:-

grimmett table

8.  First to pick up 100 Test wickets among those who have debuted after the age of 30: Grimmett was the first bowler who succeeded in taking 100 Test wickets among those bowlers who made their debut after 30 years of age. A few others who accomplished this after him are Dilip Doshi (India), Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan) and Ryan Harris (Australia). Grimmett held this unique record for a long time until India’s slow left-arm orthodox bowler Doshi broke it in his 28th Test match.

9.  Only a single no-ball in his entire Test career:  Grimmett was called for no-ball just once in his Test career. This is quite a remarkable feat for a bowler having bowled in 67 innings and with more than 200 wickets to his name.

10.  Achievements: Grimmett was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1931 along with Bradman. Around 65 years later in 1996, he was posthumously inducted into Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. He was among the 10 inaugural members of the Hall of Fame. 13 years hence, on September 30, 2009 he was also inducted into ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

[Note: Grimmett’s induction into Australian Cricket Hall of Fame was 16 years after his death on May 2, 1980 at the age of 88 years.]

11.  A bowler in hurry: There is an interesting legend behind Grimmett’s hurried approach to bowling. He used to bowl his overs at one of the quickest rates of his time. During a match in his career, Grimmett’s team’s skipper Montague ‘Monty’ Noble said to him, “Do you think you’re the only one playing in this game?”, since he was going through his overs so quickly that the bowler at the other end was not getting the chance to put on his winter gear. In fact he was taking just 90 seconds to complete an over of six balls.

12.  Excellent performance in his final Test: Grimmet took 13 wickets (seven and six in the first and second innings respectively) in his final Test appearance. The match was played on February 28, 1936 against South Africa in Kingsmead, Durban, South Africa. It was the final Test of the five-match series. Australia won the match by an innings and six runs. It is speculated, that he was not in the good books of the then Australian skipper Bradman and that he was responsible for Grimmett’s exit in future series’. However, Grimmett continued to play domestic cricket for a few more years. Frank Ward replaced Grimmett in Australia’s tour to England in 1938.

13.  Not very outgoing: According to Bill O’Reilly (who bowled along with Grimmett in the latter part of his career), Grimmett was more of a private person. However, later he did start to take out time between matches to unwind and do other things which made him happy. O’Reilly was 14 years younger to Grimmett.

14.  Shares his birthday with Alastair Cook and Marcus Trescothick: December 25 also happens to be the birthday of English cricketers— Alastair Cook and Marcus Trescothick. English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton, born 1642 also shares Grimmett’s birthday. In politics, former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah and current Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were also born on the same day. Further, December 25 is celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ throughout the world as Christmas.

(Bhaskar Narayan is a reporter at CricketCountry and Criclife. He passionately follows the game and is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. His Twitter handle is @Cricopathy)