Reviews ReviewsRSS FeedFeeds

All-Round Genius: The Unknown Story of Britain's Greatest Sportsman

A true allrounder

Martin Williamson reviews All-Round Genius: The Unknown Story of Britain's Greatest Sportsman, by Mick Collins

Martin Williamson

August 19, 2006

Text size: A | A

We live in a time when the media create sporting heroes and millionaires out of many individuals who are really fairly ordinary. It's a contrast to an earlier era when people whose feats these days would make them household names took part for the fun of it. With few exceptions, money did not come into it.

One such character was Max Woosnam, a character so colourful that if someone told you his story you would justifiably be forgiven for thinking he was the invention of an Edwardian Boys' Own type of adventure.

His achievements are remarkable - he won an Olympic gold at tennis, as well as a Wimbledon mixed doubles title and also captained Great Britain in the Davis Cup; he skippered Manchester City, and led both the amateur and full England side in the same season; he scored a hundred at Lord's; he obtained five Blues at Cambridge; and he was fairly handy at golf and snooker. He also managed all this as an amateur, and unlike many of his peers, he was not well off and had to fit in his sport while working full time. He also distinguished himself in the Great War. And yet, despite this, he is almost totally forgotten.

It is the unearthing of his remarkable tale that makes All-Round Genius: The Unknown Story of Britain's Greatest Sportsman by Mick Collins such an enjoyable read. These days, those who are good at more than one sport are urged to concentrate on one pursuit and we long for the days of the multi-faceted players. But what comes across here is that had Woosnam decided on football or tennis, he would have excelled. As it is, he ended up juggling several balls.

His cricket was almost entirely confined to his time at school, but he was clearly very good at it. After leaving Winchester he effectively gave up, reasoning that it took too long and he could pursue several varied games in the time it took to play a match. Much the same applied to golf, even though he was a scratch player. Boredom caused by him finding things being so easy was one his perennial sporting conundrums.

His prowess at games, however, was not matched by his role as a father which left much to be desired, even by the standards of those less hands-on times. Clearly, his family ranked very low in his pecking order. Perfection has its price.

Collins is to be congratulated on bringing Woosnam alive for a new generation. It is a story that is well worth a read even if the sports he excelled at are not exactly your cup of tea.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Martin Williamson

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Martin WilliamsonClose
Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
Related Links
Players/Officials: Max Woosnam
Teams: England

'Pietersen plays the innings that matter'

Modern Masters: Many of his tons have been match-defining and his ability to score them quickly has boosted England's chances

    When Bedser bowled the Don for a duck

Ashley Mallett: After receiving a pasting in the first post-war Ashes tour, the England seamer decided he had to think up a new delivery: the legcutter

    Question marks over West Indies' ODI batting

Tony Cozier: The sequence of stuttering starts, with the middle and lower orders picking up the pieces, does not bode well

    Think you're better than the captain?

Cricket Captain 2014 is suited to the hardcore strategist, but its complexities and poor graphics may turn off the casual player

The power of booing

Jonathan Wilson: It has value when used against players who have transgressed - particularly if they have somehow offended the spirit of the game

News | Features Last 7 days

Test cricket's young Fab Four

Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson will take turns as the No. 1 Test batsman. So far each has shown only one technical weakness

'I couldn't bring myself to set a batsman up by giving him runs'

Glenn McGrath talks about the method behind his metronomic consistency, visualisation, and why aggression isn't about sledging

Dhoni doesn't heed his own warning

Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff

The curse of the Sharmas

Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge

Utseya joins Brandes, Rossouw joins Tendulkar

Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa

News | Features Last 7 days