Former England fast bowler and captain Bob Willis has died at the age of 70. Renowned as one of the greatest pace bowlers to ever grace the game of cricket, Willis claimed 325 wickets in 90 Test matches at an average of 25.20, and remains England’s fourth highest wicket-taker in the format. The fast bowler also featured in 64 ODIs, and 80 wickets at an average of 24.60.
Unarguably, Willis’ finest moment on the field came in the 1981 Ashes Test at Headingley, when he picked up 8 for 43 to bowl England to one of the greatest Test victories ever. Post retirement, Willis took to commentary. He had an incisive, sometimes harsh, style of analysing English cricket, but was well respected for his views. Willis was associated with Sky Sports for the past many years. He was even part of the Ashes 2019 coverage, a series that saw England and Australia play out a 2-2 draw.
Releasing an official statement, Willis’ family said, "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." Willis is survived his wife Lauren and daughter Katie.
The England and Wales Cricket Board took to Twitter to pay tribute, and said, “Cricket has lost a dear friend. Through a detailed statement, ECB paid condolence to the great man. “The ECB is deeply saddened to say farewell to Bob Willis, a legend of English cricket, at the age of 70. Bob spearheaded the England bowling attack for more than a decade and took 325 Test wickets.
He will always be remembered for his outstanding cricket career, in particular his 8-43 in the dramatic Headingley Test victory over Australia in 1981. In later years as a broadcaster Bob was a perceptive and respected voice at the microphone. We are forever thankful for everything he has done for the game. Everyone at the ECB sends sincere condolences to his family. Cricket has lost a dear friend.”
Current managing director of England cricket Ashley Giles added, “Such sad news about Bob Willis, he was a great man.” David Gower, a long-time mate of Willis on the field and later in the commentary box, described the late cricketer as someone who had a "burning, bright passion for the game" while former England fast bowler Darren Gough stated that Willis was "hugely admired around the world".
Writing in the Daily Mail, another ex-England skipper Nasser Hussain said there will not be many who came across Bob Willis without liking him. “He had the time of day for everyone, whoever they were, and he never took himself too seriously. Those who knew him will not have a bad word to say about him and that is the perfect tribute. He was a great cricketer but more importantly he was an even better bloke who will be missed by the whole cricketing world.
--Renin Wilben Albert