Bob Willis bigraphy, stories - English former cricketer

Bob Willis : biography

30 May 1949 -

Robert George Dylan Willis MBE (born Robert George Willis on 30 May 1949), known as Bob Willis, is a former English cricketer who played for Surrey, Warwickshire, Northern Transvaal and England. A right-handed and aggressive fast bowler with a notably long run-up, Willis spearheaded several England bowling attacks between 1971 and 1984, across 90 Test matches in which he took 325 wickets at 25.20 runs per wicket, at the time second only to Dennis Lillee. He is currently behind only Ian Botham as England's leading wicket taker. Willis took 899 first-class wickets overall, although from 1975 onwards he bowled with constant pain, having had surgery on both knees. He nevertheless continued to find success, taking a Test career best eight wickets for 43 runs in the 1981 Ashes series against Australia, one of the all-time best Test bowling performances, in the famous 1981 Ashes series against Australia. He was Wisden Cricketer of the Year for 1978.

In addition to the Test arena, Willis played 64 One Day International matches for his country, taking 80 wickets, and was a prolific List-A (one day) cricketer with 421 wickets overall at 20.18. With the bat, Willis made little impression as a tail-ender with a best Test score of 28 not-out (*); however, he managed two half-centuries at first-class level and for a time held a record number of Test not-outs. Willis captained the England team in 18 Tests and 28 ODI matches between June 1982 and March 1984. Under Willis' captaincy England won seven, lost five and drew six Tests, and won 16 of the ODIs. Botham recalled Willis as "a tremendous trier.. a great team-man and an inspiration",Botham, p. 370. as well as the "only world-class fast bowler in my time as an England player."Botham, p. 376. The editor of Wisden wrote of him in similar terms: "His indomitable service to England is handsomely reflected in his great collection of Test wickets. Although often beset with aches and pains, he never spared himself when bowling for his country."

Retiring in 1984 following a Test series against the West Indies, Willis found later work as a commentator with Sky Sports. He formed a noted commentary partnership with Botham; however, Willis' relatively low-key style, in contrast to Botham's ebullience, meant that from 2006 onwards Willis tended to be used as a second string commentator. He remains an often-heard broadcaster, a published writer and an occasional critic of the modern game.

Early life

Willis was born in Sunderland, Durham, and grew up in the Surrey village of Stoke d'Abernon near Cobham, having moved there at the age of six. His father was an employee of the BBC, and Willis had an elder brother named David with whom he played cricket in the garden, and an elder sister. He adopted his third name "Dylan" by deed poll in honour of American musician Bob Dylan, of whom he is a fan. Willis was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, playing his early cricket for Stoke d'Abernon Cricket Club, where he later became Vice President and Life Member, and two seasons for the Cobham Avorians. He was also an avid schoolboy footballer, but was not a natural athlete and loathed rugby, which was the school's dominant sport. Willis recalled in 2009 that during his school years "in the winter when the muscled brethren were playing, I used to play football with the school old boys. This taught me how to drink cider and vomit it up on Surbiton station, and other life-altering lessons." Willis' bowling potential was rewarded with selection for Surrey Schools and Surrey Colts, under the directorship of Watcyn Evans, who would become a close friend.

Playing career

County debut

In 1968, Willis accepted an invitation to join Middlesex and Surrey Young Cricketers on tour in Pakistan, and used this opportunity to further hone his skills. Upon his return he made early appearances for Surrey's Second XI, his first being on 26 August against Worcestershire's Seconds. Willis, 19 years of age, took one wicket for 48 runs in the first innings, and bowled four wicketless overs in the second. He was not called on to bat at all. Two days later, he faced Glamorgan and took three wickets. He played several further Second XI matches through May and June 1969, before his first-class debut on 6 August. Scotland was touring England that season and had already beaten Warwickshire. Willis took three wickets for 13 runs from 13 overs in his first innings, and two for 37 in his second, to help Surrey to victory by an innings and 97 runs. Willis went on to take 22 first-class wickets that season at 17.22 from six matches, placing him 15th in the national averages for that season's County Championship. Surrey came third in the competition that year. Willis also played two List-A games, but took only one wicket at 52.00.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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