With a distinctively long hair and an action that would instantly catch your attention, Bob Willis kept steaming in for England from more than 40 yards every delivery and on most occasions, to great effect. One of the most charismatic English cricketers from the 80s, Bob Willis took his final breath on Wednesday, succumbing to thyroid cancer. He was 70.
Robert George Dylan Willis made his international debut in the 1970/71 Ashes and went on to represent the country in 90 Test matches. He picked up 325 wickets and when he retired, he was the second-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, only behind Australian rival Dennis Lille. Among Englishmen, only Sir Ian Botham, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have surpassed him later on.
One of the finest, if not the finest performances of his career came in the 1981 Ashes, which was popularly termed the Botham’s Ashes. Whilst Ian Botham wrecked havoc with the bat and ball, Willis kept picking crucial wickets at regular intervals, helping their country win the series from 0-1 down to 3-1. He registered his career-best figures in that series in the third Test, claiming 8 wickets for just 43 runs.
Bob Willis worked as a commentator post-retirement
Bob Willis’ final few days as an international cricketer were not very fondly remembered. He was famously hammered by Michael Holding in the 3rd Test against England. He announced retirement immediately after the series, bringing curtains to one of the most iconic careers in cricket history. Interestingly, he also holds the record for most wickets without picking up a 10-wicket haul in a Test.
Willis then joined Sky Sports as a television presenter and commentator. But this stint wasn’t very successful for the great man as many felt his voice wasn’t intriguing enough. He tried his hand as an actor, appearing in three films, This is Your Life (1991), A Question of Sports (2004) and 20 to 1 (2005).
Despite the continuous criticism, he rejoined Sky as a commentator and largely worked with them covering the County. He was pretty vehement and on-the-point with his criticism, which made people call him a hyper-critical commentator.
Willis was appointed in a hospital in Sunderland and there were reports floating around his bad health yesterday. His family later confirmed his demise, leaving the English cricketing fraternity heartbroken. Willis’ family, according to Sky Sports, said in a statement: “We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather. He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly.”