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

    'When I became an umpire, I didn't realise how complicated this game was'

Peter Willey on suiting up against '80s West Indies, and umpiring in England

    'Saqlain was like an English spinner with a subcontinental touch'

My XI: Erapalli Prasanna on a spinner whom even Sachin Tendulkar found hard to bat against

Anjum on the spot

How well does one of Indian women's cricket's leading lights know her career?

    Last ball, last wicket, and Northants' parched spell

Ask Steven: Also, Vijay Manjrekar's nickname, Abid Ali's no-ball, oldest double-centurions, and this decade's leading players

The thing about Australia's superiority to Pakistan

Ahmer Naqvi: Despite their record, the fact that they haven't played in Pakistan for 16 years weighs against them

News | Features Last 7 days

How India weeds out its suspect actions

The BCCI set up a three-man committee to tackle the problem of chucking at age-group and domestic cricket, and it has produced significant results in five years

A rock, a hard place and the WICB

The board's latest standoff with its players has had embarrassing consequences internationally, so any resolution now needs to be approached thoughtfully

Kohli back to old habits

Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala

Twin Asian challenges await Australia

What Australia have not done since returning a fractured unit from India is head back to Asia to play an Asian team. Two of their major weaknesses - handling spin and reverse swing - will be tested in the UAE by Pakistan

West Indies go AWOL

West Indies may have formally played the fourth ODI in Dharamsala but their fielding suggested their minds were already on the flight back home

News | Features Last 7 days