Published: 2015
Pages: 184
Author: Bonnell, Max
Publisher: CricketBooks.com.au
Rating: 4 stars

There are nicknames from cricket’s history which conjure up images of a players’ personality. ‘Slasher’ Mackay, ‘Terror’ Turner and the ‘Demon’ Spofforth, but perhaps the most evocative is ‘Lucky’ Collins. As his other moniker was ‘Horseshoe’, lady luck you would presume was Herbert Collins’ bitch. Legend has it that he was lucky with the toss of the coin for innings as well as in the game of two up. So it was a surprise to be disabused from the Collins myth.

Author Max Bonnell, informs the reader quickly that Collins’ soubriquet was earned from his early luck in his first Ashes series in 1920-21 when he was repeatedly put down by the English fieldsman. It appears that his luck in everything else was, in the long run, anything but good. He finished his life impecunious and alone.

In between his nickname and spiral to pauper, Bonnell takes us chronologically through the life of Collins. His skill as a writer and perception for a quality ‘yarn’ maintains interest throughout and makes for a quality read. This is no mean feat, as Collins was not the most exciting batsman, despite his hero being the elegant Victor Trumper. At just 170 cm and 61 kg, when combined with the bats of the day, Collins was never going to be a big hitting crowd pleaser. That Collins admired but did not try and emulate his hero is the first example of him playing to his limitations and demonstrated that he was a thinking cricketer.

Collins really showed his ability to dissect the game when he became the Australian captain. After reading Lucky you are left in no doubt that Collins must rank as one of the best Australian captains. Bonnell demonstrates that he was before his time in man management and tactics and won an Ashes series when Australia was perhaps the weaker of the two teams. This was in 1924-25 when England had the two best batsmen in Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and clearly the number one bowler in Maurice Tate, but lost 4-1.

In the 1924-25 series, Collins was offered money to throw the third and deciding Test. His response was to invite his best bowler and mate, Arthur Mailey, to help throw the bookmaker down the hotel stairs.

This vehement attitude to an offer to fix a match forms the basis of Bonnell’s argument against those who claim he threw the deciding Ashes Test of 1926. In the end Bonnell probably does enough to exonerate Collins of the charge.

Collins could certainly have used the illegal money on offer. He was a mug punter and after cricket a not very successful bookmaker. There was little money in the game in his day as demonstrated by the fact that on the 1921 tour the manager was paid better than the players. The book is full of examples of where Collins had the chance to make money but a combination of poor decisions and limited business acumen saw the opportunities pass him by.

It seems Collins fellow players called him Squirrel, although no one knows why, perhaps if he lived by that nickname instead of Lucky his story may have been more uplifting. Either way this is a fine biography and should be read by all cricket lovers.

Copies of Lucky can be purchased from Cricket Web’s friend Ken Piesse http://www.cricketbooks.com.au/

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