18th July, a day of some special birthdays. It included a man who is called the ‘Father of cricket’, a fearsome fast bowler, a World Cup final hero and a graceful left hander.
Doctor WG Grace
Doctor WG Grace who was simply known as ‘The Doctor’ or ‘WG’ was the first modern batsman who changed the game with his calibre and charisma and made cricket one of the romances of the Victorian age England. In a career spanning 44 years he reached new heights with his batting and gave birth to many mythical stories.
He was the first man to score 50000 runs in first class cricket and to score 100 centuries. His many records included the 2000 plus runs in 1871, the first man to do so and scoring two triple hundreds. He scored the first test century on English soil and became the first Englishman to score a century on debut. And for all the early popularity cricket should be grateful to Doctor WG Grace, the man who had the most famous beard of the game.
Dennis Keith Lillee
A devastating and controversial fast bowler was born. Dennis Keith Lillee retired with 355 test wickets, the highest at that stage and that gives some idea about his skill. But beyond the bowling, there was more to Dennis Lillee which makes him look like a hero from a Western Hollywood film. One of the characters of the game Lillee never held himself back in and outside cricket grounds and at times like 1981-82 spat against Javed Miandad, things took quite an ugly turn.
On their prime, Lillee and Jeff Thomson were the most intimidating pair of fast bowlers as displayed in the 1974-75 Ashes. With age, he became an intelligent bowler and also made quite a few late order batting contribution including an unsuccessful 10th wicket partnership with Thomson in the 1975 World Cup final.
Many people remember the name of Carlos Brathwaite for his heroics in one April evening at Eden Gardens. A lusty hitter of the ball, Brathwaite came to his own in the last over of the 2016 World T20 final. With 19 required in the last over bowled by Ben Stokes, Brathwaite decided to swing his willow and finished the match with four touring sixes in next four balls.
Brathwaite played a memorable knock in the last World Cup and almost took West Indies to an unlikely victory against New Zealand. He got his maiden ODI hundred but ended in the losing side as requiring a six to win, his attempt was caught at the boundary line.
A brilliant left handed opener Smriti Mandhana made her India debut as a teenager in 2013. After a month of his 18th birthday, she made her test debut against England at Wormsley and played a key role in India’s victory. But it was still 2014 and women cricket achievements were hardly celebrated. 2017 was the year when everything changed. Mandhana played a key role as she delivered a brilliant 90 against England followed by a graceful 106 against West Indies and played a key role in India’s journey to the final. This made her a star overnight and she started to get what she deserved from the beginning. Now one of the leading female athletes of the country, Mandhana, is also a regular fixture in various global leagues like WBBL and Kia Super League.