Meet the Bothams: Three generations, three sports

James Botham — former England all-rounder Ian's grandson — earned a call-up for Wales rugby team, becoming the third in the family to have played at an elite level

Having a famous sporting surname can be a daunting prospect for some, but James Botham clearly isn’t fazed. On Tuesday, the Cardiff Blues flanker earned his maiden call-up to the Wales rugby squad ahead of the weekend’s Autumn’s Nations Cup. James is the grandson of former England cricketing legend Ian and son of Liam, an ex-Cardiff winger. The 22-year-old’s elevation is a glowing testament to the legacy of the Bothams – a family whose three generations have played sport at the elite level.

Ian Botham, the cricketer

From 1977 — when he made his international debut against Australia at Trent Bridge — to 1986, Ian Botham was arguably one of the finest all-rounders in world cricket. Injuries and a drastic dip in form may have curtailed his prowess towards the end of his career, but having featured in 102 Tests, he is still considered to be one of England’s finest cricketers. For someone, who could hardly put a foot wrong on the cricket field, it’s scarcely believable that at one stage, he was confused between becoming a cricketer and a footballer. That’s because between taking wickets and scoring hundreds for Somerset, a young Ian was also making waves playing league football for Scunthorpe. Ultimately, it was on his father’s advice that he dropped the idea of pursuing football as a career.

Liam: Cricketer, rugby player and a footballer

When asked about his 6-year-old son Liam’s sporting ambitions, father Ian had famously quipped: “A cheeky bugger who reckons he is going to be better than his old man.” Since then, there was little doubt about his career trajectory. In fact, for a fleeting moment, it looked like Liam would surpass his illustrious father’s feats on the cricket field. On his first-class debut as an 18-year-old medium-pacer for Hampshire, he would go on to pick five wickets, including that of former England captain and his father’s team-mate Mike Gatting. Surprisingly, Liam quickly realised that cricket was not his calling. In 1997, at the age of 20, he signed up for Rugby Union club West Hartlepool, where he played as a fullback. Three years later, he shifted base to Cardiff to play for Cardiff RFC, a team that incidentally would be the predecessors to the Blues.
Disillusioned by the Rugby Union, Liam shifted his allegiance to the Rugby League in 2003, when he inked a dual-code contract with the Leeds Rhinos. Ultimately, at the age of 28, a neck injury ended Liam’s career. From a cricketer to a Rugby Union player to Rugby League footballer, Liam dabbled in three diverse sporting disciplines.

James, the Welsh rugby player

Father Liam’s days as a Cardiff winger meant James would crisscross between the Welsh capital and Caerleon during his childhood. This not only strengthened his resolve to choose rugby as a career, but it would also play a key role in strengthening the love for his Welsh roots. It’s something that his grandfather would attest. “I remember my wife Kath decorating a bedroom at home for Jimbo (James) when he was little…it had to be red, have three feathers and we would have some rugby posts in a barn that we had. He’s always said that he’s Welsh,” Ian Botham had told Wales Online.

In an interview with The Guardian, Ian would remark about his grandson: “He has the same single-mindedness and determination that I had.” Little wonder then that with all this talent, family legacy and dollops of determination, James has seamlessly graduated through the ranks to earn a call-up to the Wales rugby squad.

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