Bob Willis

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Bob Willis : biography

30 May 1949 –

As a captain, Willis has subsequently received mixed assessment. Botham retained fond memories of Willis the player,Botham, p. 162-196, 223–225. but remarked that Willis found it difficult to captain him because the men were of similar age.Botham p. 141. Willis, often noted for his enthusiasm, became an "effective motivator" as a captain; however, he was "no outstanding tactical genius" and "towards the end his feelings bordered on disgust at the conviction that some of England’s cricketers accepted failure too readily. Nor was he able to close himself off against media comment." He was also characterised as a loner in the game, and a reluctant captain grateful to be placed back within the ranks after repeated defeats while he was at the reins. His 18 Tests as England captain saw 7 victories, 5 defeats, and 6 draws, while he led England in 29 ODI matches, winning 16 and losing 13.

Willis played in the next Test series against the West Indies, taking two wickets in the first two matches. and before the last match played against Derbyshire for his county, taking three wickets. Willis took to the field on 12 July for the third Test and took only two wickets for 123 runs as the West Indies, particularly Michael Holding, "hammered" his bowling – Holding hit 59 from 55 deliveries. Willis conceded 40 more runs from eight overs in the second innings, which Wisden referred to as "the death throes" of his career. He announced his retirement from all cricket immediately after England’s defeat.

He finished his career with 325 Test wickets, at the time second only to Dennis Lillee,Playfair Cricket Annual. Queen Anne Press. 1985. p. 228. ISBN 0-356-10741-8. and 899 wickets in all first-class matches. Only Ian Botham has since surpassed his number of Test wickets for England.Playfair Cricket Annual. Headline. 2009. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-7553-1746-2. Willis also retains the world record for most Test wickets without a single 10-wicket haul in a match.

Personal life

Willis married his wife Juliet in 1980. They have a daughter, Katie, born in 1984. In 2005 it was reported that Willis’ relationship with his wife had ended. Willis had previously admitted an extra-marital affair between 1991 and 1995, when it became public after he was seen leaving the address of secretary Lauren Clark.

Commentary

After retiring from playing cricket, Willis established himself as a television commentator on Sky. He began a television career in 1985, and was initially in partnership with Botham in the commentary box, "his laconic style did not suit all" and he was dropped from the "front-line commentary duties". Willis appeared on BBC TV Cricket between 1989 and 1999 as a summariser before joining Sky Sports in 2000. He also appeared on David Tomlinson’s This is Your Life in 1991, A Question of Sport in 2004 and 20 to 1 in 2005.

Willis has continued to work for Sky Sports, largely commentating in the county game, where he has been vocal on the need for changes in English cricket, particularly through a group of former players known as the Cricket Reform Group. He was critical of Mike Atherton during the England tour of Zimbabwe in 1997. In 2006 he criticised the then England coach Duncan Fletcher’s practices, England’s performance in the 2006-07 Ashes, and was vocal in calling for the retirement of out-of-form national captain Michael Vaughan in 2008.

Willis has attracted detractors due to his somewhat melancholic style. The Independent commentated on the 1995 Texaco Trophy that Willis had "trenchant content, dismal delivery. As a player Willis had trouble getting to sleep. As a commentator he struggles to stay awake. His voice remains on one note – the drone of your neighbour’s mower." Andrew Smith wrote in 1999 that "On Sky TV, Willis is often discourteous and unfair to players. Didn’t he ever make a mistake?" though the Daily Mail, for whom Willis had begun writing, defended his commentary style. CricInfo’s launching of two polls on cricket commentary both returned negative views of Willis’ "hyper-critical" commentary. Willis received only 15% of the vote, above only Dermot Reeve and Allott.

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