Former England captain and fast bowler Bob Willis has passed away, aged 70 after a short illness. Willis represented England in 90 Tests in an international career spanning 13 years between 1971 and 1984, finishing with 325 wickets at 25.2 – fourth-best for England behind James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ian Botham. He also played 64 ODIs.
Willis was an integral member of the iconic Ashes-winning England team of 1981, claiming a memorable 8 for 43 in the team’s come-from-behind victory in the third Test at Headingley.
“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’s family said in a statement.
With his long run up, a sprint across 30 yards that earned him the nickname ‘Goose’, Willis offered a compelling sight with the ball in hand. Termed ”a tremendous trier” by Botham, he fought his way back after suffering multiple injuries to both his knees in 1975.
He captained England in 1982 in an ODI series against India. He tasted mixed success during his two-year stint and was sacked from the post in favour of David Gower in early 1984 after the Pakistan series. Incidentally, his international career ended in 1984 at Leeds – the scene of his greatest triumph – after conceding at nearly seven runs an over against a marauding West Indies side.
In all Willis played 308 first class games for England, Surrey, Warwickshire and Northern Transvaal, claiming 899 wickets at 24.99 including 34 five-fers. He also had an impressive List A record, finishing with 421 wickets from 293 games.
Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year in 1978, Willis was named in the country’s greatest Test XI by the ECB On the occasion of England’s 1000th Test in August 2018.
Post his playing career, Willis made the jump to commentary like many of his peers and formed a partnership with his former teammate Botham on the Sky Network. He quickly gained a reputation of being one of the harshest critics of players and the modern game. He was pushed out of the first choice commentary panel in 2006 but still remained active in the circuit without ever compromising on his opinions.
He is survived by his wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.