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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
George Marcus Crothers
  • Born 3 January 1909 Ormeau, Belfast
  • Died 5 February 1982 Belfast
  • Educated Royal Belfast Academical Institution
  • Occupation Manager in textile industry
  • Debut 27 June 1931 v Scotland at College Park
  • Cap Number 384
  • Style Right-hand bat, wicket keeper
  • Teams Lisburn

George Crothers was a superb wicket keeper, certainly one of the best half dozen to have represented Ireland. For thirty years, from his debut as 16 year old in 1925, to his retirement in 1955, caused by ill health rather than declining form, he was ever present behind the stumps at Wallace Park. One of the several talented young players brought on by Lisburn professional Joe Awty, he was always immaculately turned out and stood up to all types of bowling. So quick was his glovework that some batsmen on being stumped enquired how they were out. Soon challenging veteran Jack Dearden as the best keeper in Ulster, Crothers captained Lisburn in four different seasons. The first was in 1932 when he was only 23, a rare honour in those days.

He was back in charge in 1937, taking the club to a Senior League title. In all he was a member of three Cup winning XIs and helped win the League on seven occasions. He formed a lethal combination with classic left armer Jack Bowden. After his retirement he was a key administrator, being Secretary for many years and playing an important role with the supporters' club. He also gained a reputation for his newspaper reports, memorably described by Clarence Hiles as, "Caustic, sarcastic, but extremely witty... as legendary as his silky skills behind the stumps."

Strangely, in the view of many shrewd observers, he played only 19 matches for Ireland from his debut v Scotland in 1931 to his finale in the Yorkshire match of 1948. Six years were lost to war and he was not always available, but Ireland used four other keepers during this time. One was the long serving AP Kelly, another was Basil Goulding who gained two caps in 1934, while a third was Phoenix man JN Brophy who won only one cap. However some critics were surprised by the preference accorded to The DUCC and Leinster keeper Charlie Cuffe, another who favoured standing up, for 14 matches. Cuffe sometimes appeared ponderous and ungainly, though he was usually very effective, but Crothers was at least his equal in all departments, and though figures do not completely bear this out, a much better batsman.

On debut he made a first innings 31 at 10, scoring the lion's share of a 9th wicket 45 with JC Boucher, crucial runs in a low scoring match. His highest score came against Scotland the following year: 41 at 9 before falling to the distinctly quick AD Baxter. In all, however, he made only five double figure scores, possibly not enough to justify claims that he could have played for Ireland for his batting alone. He was clearly well thought of as a batsman, sometimes appearing in the order above such competent performers as Tom Dixon and Ham Lambert. Perhaps it was Coffee's ability taking spin bowling that tipped the scales as the Irish attack relied greatly on Boucher. However it is impossible to ignore the views of his contemporaries such as Donald Shearer, who thought Crothers one of only five Irish players of his time who could have made their way in County cricket, Shearer modestly excluded himself.

Crothers did have a trial for Worcestershire but the County was well served by keepers having future Test umpires Sid Buller and Henry "Hugo" Yarn old, both skilful glove men, on the staff. Sid and Hugo were both destined to die before their time, the former during the tea interval of a match he was umpiring at Edgbaston and the latter driving between umpiring assignments.

After the War, Crothers was back until 1948, captaining Ireland in his last match v Yorkshire at Ormeau. Rain came to Ireland's rescue after Yorkshire pacemen Alec Coxon, shortly to play his only Test match against Don Bradman's all conquering Australians, and Ron Aspinall, destroyed Ireland. Crothers, at I1, fell to Aspinall for a duck in what proved to be his final innings for his country. At least, unlike other Irish captains in the lean post war years, he could claim an unbeaten record in charge. He later served two terms as an Irish selector.

He was also a fine all round sportsman, being a good enough footballer to keep goal for Linfield and, as a hockey player to turn out as centre forward for South Antrim. His death, in 1982, was not widely reported at the time but a belated obituary appeared in Wisden 1986.