Romanticism works very well with arts and literature. It even had a period of pre-eminence. But when it comes to actual numbers and facts, it has a dubious past. And correcting those fallacies, no matter how misdirected it sounds, is often required to keep the facts straight. (More Cricket News)
It's all the more important in sports, where one number can change everything. Take the case of Don Bradman, for example. Had the scorers given those extra four runs to Bradman, out of love or respect for the greatest batter ever, the Boy from Bowral's average would have been a perfect 100!. It didn't happen. So, when Don Bradman retired in 1949, his average was 99.94. Still a thing of beauty, though.
A generation earlier before Don Bradman, record keeping was not so accurate though. And specially in the case of William Gilbert Grace, cricket's first true superstar. WG Grace is widely regarded as the founder of modern batting, and the legendary Victorian-era cricketer had indeed accumulated some massive numbers during his very long playing career, which spanned between 1865 and 1908.
Now, 170 years after his death, some of his numbers have been removed from the record books by Wisden, regarded as cricket's 'Bible'.
WG Grace's official numbers are now 54,211 first-class runs, 2,809 wickets and 124 centuries, which are 685 runs, 67 wickets and two centuries lesser than originally thought to be his. In total, 10 matches have been excluded from the former England captain's record.
As widely reported, Wisden has now fallen into line with the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACSH), who have long questioned the status of several "first-class" matches played by WG Grace.
"The time has come to accept that the Almanack should be more concerned with record than romance," Wisden editor Lawrence Booth told the Times.
It's now also agreed that Grace's historic feat of becoming the first player to score 100 first-class hundreds in 1895 actually happened two weeks later than first recorded.
For the record, Wisden had amended Grace's numbers in its 1981 edition. But then editor John Woodcock returned to the original figures the following year.
"It does nothing to diminish the great cricketer, instead it culls out unnecessary lies, Wisden is a book of record, romanticism need not be done through lies. It was purely a rational decision,” Booth told The Indian Express. "Are we trying to delude the past to cater to the exceptionalism of Victorian England?”
In a heartening change though, Wisden has increased Jack Hobbs's tally of first-class hundreds by two, making it 199.
Cricket is indeed all about numbers. But keeping those numbers correct -- for every single run scored, every wicket taken and every milestone achieved -- that cannot always be a fair game.
Fortunately, there are scorers who live by the facts, not emotions. And they are recording the living history of one of the most complicated sports.