A team of cricketers who left for their heavenly abode quite young

Ben Hollioake’s Porsche spun and crashed into a wall. He was just 24 when he died in the crash © Getty Images


By David Green


There have been many cricketers who have died young — including a number of all-time greats and others that probably would have joined this category if fate had dealt them a better hand.


Here are XII of those that left this mortal coil far too early due to a variety of tragic misfortunes including illness, war, accidents, murder, falling over on a dance floor and suicide.


1. Victor Trumper


The darling of the Golden Age was an absolute master on sticky wickets, scored the first Test hundred before lunch and was indisputably the greatest Australian batsman before Bradman. Despite ill-health he averaged over 60 in his last 68 innings, before finally succumbing to Bright’s Disease in June 1915. He was 37 years old.


2. Arthur Shrewsbury


Rivaled Grace as the premier English batsman of the 1880s and captained England seven times in his 23 Tests. He topped the first-class batting averages seven times including in 1902, his final season. The following spring, under the false impression that he had an incurable disease, he shot himself at his sister’s home. Shrewsbury was 47.


3. Archie Jackson


The New South Wales batsman emerged at the same time as Bradman and was considered by many at the time to be the better prospect. A masterful 164 on Test debut against England in 1929 suggested that the stylish Jackson would fulfill his immense promise. But his health waned soon after and following a long battle with tuberculosis, Jackson died at the age of 23 in 1933.


4. William ‘Dodge’ Whysall


A close friend of Harold Larwood, Whysall starred in Nottinghamshire’s County Championship triumph of 1929, before being recalled to the England side for the decisive match of the 1930 Ashes series. Just two months later, at the age of 43, Whysall was dead from septicaemia caused by a fall on a dance floor where he had injured his elbow.


5. AEJ Collins


Collins may not have attained the status of Trumper or Jackson but he did record cricket’s highest ever individual score, smashing 628 not out as a thirteen year old in a house match at Clifton College in June 1899. Like many of his generation, Collins did not survive World War I, dying at the age of 29 at the First Battle of Ypres on November 11, 1914.


6. Claude Tozer


An immensely-talented schoolboy cricketer who would have played more first-class cricket but for the demands of medical school and World War I. Tozer survived the War, had just been named as New South Wales captain and was tipped for a place in the Australian Test side to face England. But then murder most foul as his deranged mistress and patient shot him dead at the age of 30 on December 21, 1920.


7. Norman Callaway


Like Taylor, Callaway may not be a household name but he does hold a notable cricket record. He made his first-class debut at the age of 18 in February 1915 for New South Wales against Queensland and promptly became the first man to score a double-century on his first-class debut. Cricket was then abandoned in Australia due to World War I, and by dint of Callaway being killed at the Second Battle of Bullecourt in France in 1917, he has the highest first class average on record of 207.”


8. Montague Druitt


Druitt was found drowned in the River Thames at the age of 31 in 1888. A keen all-rounder, he represented Winchester College, and the Morden Cricket Club of Blackheath amongst others. But Druitt may have led a sinister double-life with many Jack the Ripper experts concluding that Druitt was the man responsible for the infamous Whitechapel murders.


9. Hedley Verity


Arguably England’s greatest ever spinner, Verity took 1,956 first-class wickets at a staggering average of 14.90 and provided the control at one end during the Bodyline series as Larwood and Voce wreaked havoc at the other. He was mortally wounded during the Eighth Army’s advance on Catania in World War II and died a few days later on 31 July 1943 reportedly acknowledging that “I think I have played my last innings for Yorkshire.” He was just 38.


10. Ken Farnes


A fearsome fast bowler, Farnes took 10 wickets on Test debut at Trent Bridge in 1934 and snared 60 victims in his 15 Tests. He was killed, at the age of 30, in a plane crash in October 1941 while flying with the R.A.F. over Northamptonshire.


11. Albert Cotter


One of the great early fast bowlers, Cotter played 21 Tests and took 89 wickets and once hit an aging W.G Grace with a beamer incurring the wrath of the great man and causing him to walk off the field in disgust. Cotter was another who fell in the Great War – to Turkish fire in October 1917 at the age of 32. He had a premonition of his impending doom too tossing up a cricket ball of mud and announcing “That’s my last bowl, blue. Something’s going to happen.”


12. Ben Hollioake


Who can forget the younger Hollioake’s opening statement as an international cricketer when he hit 63 at Lord’s in an ODI against an Australian side containing Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie! He never quite repeated those feats in two Tests and 20 ODIs, but who knows what he could have achieved if he hadn’t tragically died in a car crash at the age of just 24 in 2002.


(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)