Bob Willis was fast. In the 70s he excelled as a tearaway fast bowler, but more often his name was sandwiched between the likes of John Snow, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, and Andy Roberts. But the English lad was never bothered by that. He consistently ran like a Hare to sent down cannonballs at an astonishing pace. Neither the lad was afraid to bowl at the likes of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Ian Chappell, Majid Khan or Zaheer Abbas. Even if a Viv or Greg hooked his fast-bouncers, he would send another one targeting the head. The English lad had the guts!

They say when John Snow approached at the popping crease to bowl, firecrackers used to lit; but the same can be said about Bob aka “Goose”  nicked named for his loose-limbed approach towards the crease. When the matter was about unleashing the true beast and hostility with the ball in his hand, Willis was close to Snow, Fred Trueman, and Frank Tyson.

Injuries crippled his career more often, but Willis was mentally so strong that he never decided to surrender but came back stronger to hunt his prey. The six-feet-six-inch lanky figure walked casually towards the crease, started his run and that curly-brownish-auburn-hair flew in the air dishing out a sight to watch for the cricket followers around the globe in 70s, when cricket really became a hit on television. Among the big boys of the game in 70s, he established himself as one of the members, who would command respect from opposition players.

Willis became a part of cricket’s folklore when he bundled out Australia for 111 to trigger an epic 18-run win on that eventful day at Leeds in 1981. Ian Botham essayed a masterclass to give England the slightest of chances to turn things around, and Willis’ 43 for 8made sure, Botham’s epic does not go in vain.

The following year, he was announced as the skipper of England replacing Keith Fletcher before the tour to Sri Lanka and India. Willis inherited a weak England side with the likes of Graham Gooch and Geoff Boycott joining rebel tours in South Africa. Still, he managed to beat India and Pakistan at home and lost to Australia 2-1 Downunder in another memorable Ashes encounter. He eld England in World Cup in 1983 only to be knocked out by the champions India in semi-finals. In 1984 West Indies scripted another Blackwash. The third Test at Leeds against West Indies would be his last.

Bob retired as England’s leading wicket-taker, and second in the world overall, behind Australia’s Dennis Lillee in that summer of 1984.

After retirement, Willis took the microphone on his hand and became a renowned cricket pundit at BBC and Sky Sports. He was lethal and logical as a commentator. Never, ever stepped back to express what is justified. He was a fearsome critic and his straightforwardness had been praised all over.

Willis was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016.

On December 4, 2019, Willis died leaving everyone sad.

Bob Willis was a proud Englishman. A legendary cricketer. A great cricketing brain. A true friend of the game.

With his death,  cricket has lost a friend.

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