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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
John Graham Crothers
  • Born 8 April 1949, Belfast
  • Educated Belfast Royal Academy, Queen's University
  • Occupation Doctor, Senior NHS Consultant
  • Debut 24 June 1972 Scotland Glenpark, Greenock
  • Cap Number 522
  • Style Right-hand bat
  • Teams Queen's University, Woodvale

Graham "Doc" Crothers was a sound opening, or upper order batsman, who was perhaps unfortunate to make his Irish debut in 1972, when Ireland's programme was left unfinished as MCC had security concerns over playing at Castle Avenue. A prominent schoolboy cricketer at BRA, gaining representative honours, Crothers was soon established in the Queen's team, heading the NCU averages in 1972, and taking them to the NCU Challenge Cup Final in 1973, a considerable achievement for a young and inexperienced XI. Their success owed much to his leadership, but in the final they lost by 7 wickets to Waringstown. Crothers played a "captain's innings" 48 in the second knock, but the batting of two of the Harrisons (Deryck and Jim) and the clever off spin of Ivan Anderson was too much for his team mates.

He also became captain of Woodvale, where what Clarence Hiles called his "visionary and extrovert captaincy" took the Ballygomartin Road side to two Cup Finals and to within a whisker of the League title. On each occasion they were foiled by Waringstown, yet again. At Downpatrick in 1978 Crothers may have had a sense of déjà vu. He showed his side the way with a first innings 51, which gave them some respectability as the team totalled 135. However, despite stern tests posed by his captaincy, the Villagers won by 8 wickets, with Roy Harrison's batting and Anderson's bowling again the key.

In 1979, the two sides met again in what was seen as one of the most exciting finals of all time. Waringstown won by 1 run with one ball to spare, despite Crothers having almost wrested the match from their grasp. The two sides also were neck and neck in the League; again the wily captaincy of Deryck Harrison narrowly outsmarted that of his doughty opponent in a similarly dramatic play off. He had a further spell of captaincy in 1986 but the Ballygomartin Road trophy cabinet remained bare. His highest score for his club was 131* v Muckamore in the Cup.

He also featured strongly in the Guinness Cup between 1970 and 1979. Playing for Ulster Town, he scored 419 runs at 40.25. The great all rounder and shrewd commentator Trevor Bailey once said that only the really good player achieves an average of 40 or over. Some might claim that Crothers most important contribution to cricket in Ulster, and, indeed in Ireland, lay outside the competitive sphere. He was the inspiration behind the Ulster Grasshoppers CC, Northern Ireland's "only authentic wandering side." It brought players together for good quality but highly enjoyable social cricket. Crothers captained the side in its early years and was later the manager. There were many "exotic world wide tours" and, while the decision to tour South Africa in 1981 might be seen by some as a questionable one, they can only be seen as a positive force in Irish Cricket. They also provided conspicuous support for Ireland at away matches, pre-dating the "Blarney Army" by many years.

Crothers' Irish career was limited to two matches in 1972. In June against Scotland at Greenock, he batted at 3 after the old firm of Reith and Pigot. Ireland just escaped with a draw in this match and he was not alone in failing with the bat, His first innings was ended by a return catch to long term Scots "office" George Goddard, who was on his way to taking 8-34, for 10 and in the second he was out for a duck. He was stumped by 42 year old keeper James Brown, who played for Scotland for 20 years gaining the MBE, off the slow left armer Jimmy Allen, another veteran, who had begun his First Class career for Oxford University v Yorkshire and the Australians in 1953 by bowling ten maidens and taking 3 wickets before conceding a run.

Against Wales at St Helen's, Swansea Crothers opened the batting with David Pigot. They put on 49, Crothers eventually making 26. He was, however, out for 4 in the second innings. Rain caused a draw. He never played for Ireland again. The feeling remains that his talents were under used at representative levels. It would have been interesting to have seen his brand of leadership tested at a higher level. He was also a high class Rugby footballer. As a full back for Queen's and NIFC he gained 8 Ulster caps in the early 70s, in the old amateur days. The evergreen Tom Kiernan, also a useful opening bat, barred his way to further honours. He did gain an unusual Cambridge Blue during his brief sojourn at Hughes Hall College. He came on as a replacement in the dying minutes of the match and became his College's first Rugby blue as it had only recently admitted men to its ranks.

Away from the sports fields "Doc" Crothers advanced far in his profession. At the time of writing (September 2007), he is an NHS consultant in Belfast.