RAJESH KUMAR - Cricket Statisticians
Bob Willis - A Cricketer and a Gentleman - Edited by David Willis
Bob Willis - A Cricketer and a Gentleman
Edited by David Willis

First Published in Great Britain in August 2020 by
Hodder & Stoughton - An Hachette UK company

Hardback edition

ISBN 978 1 529 34134 8

Pages 284

Price with eBook and audio Sterling pounds 20.00


Bob Willis was one of England's greatest fast bowlers, making 90 Test appearances, capturing 325 wickets at 25.20 runs apiece, including 16 five-wicket hauls, at a strike rate of 53.4 and economy rate of 2.83. All his three vital bowling aspects - average, strike rate and economy rate are the best among the top four wicket-takers for England.

Following a long battle with prostate cancer, he died in December 2019, aged 70.

Edited by David Willis, Bob's brother, Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a Gentleman tells the story of a hugely eventful life. He says the book is not a commercial venture for the Willis family, however. Bob's prostate cancer was diagnosed late and had already spread to his bones. Lauren Clark, his wife, is passionate about the importance of improving early testing of the disease and funding research in this crucial area. She and Katie will be donating the full advance payment and royalties on this book, less expenses to Prostate Cancer UK.

Lauren Clark, 52, in her recent interview, has described how he fought the illness with the same grit and determination that he displayed on the cricket fied.

Bob Willis had produced his career-best bowling performance of 8 for 43 off 15.1 overs in Australia's second innings at Headingley, Leeds in 1981, enabling England to win by 18 runs. Of course, he was assisted by Ian Botham's all-round skills - 50 and 149 not out apart from 6 for 95 and one for 14.

The book commences with a five-page foreword from Sir Ian Botham, the greatest England all-rounder. "Just as he was irreplaceable as a player, he was unique as a commentator and pundit on T.V. Of course, the abiding memory most people will have of Bob in Headingley 1981, and I am not much different. He was under huge pressure going into that, playing for his England career. When Mike Brearley told him to let it rip as he ran in down the hill, it became a masterclass of delivering the highest-quality performance at a time the team needed it most. I would be the first to say that he deseerves a massive share of the credit for what happened in that game and that series. The last day at Leeds and his 8/43 was one of the most extraordinary things I was ever lucky to witness close up."

Packed with anecdotes and often moving testimony from those who knew him best, and featuring biographical chapters by sportswriter Mike Dickson as well as material by Bob Willis himself, this is the definite account of the life and career of one of cricket's most important and fascinating figures of the last fifty years.

The first half of the recently released book is a detailed biography written by Mike Dickson - the Daily Mail Sports Writer who was part of Bob Willis's close circle of friends. The second half includes essays from the likes of Scyld Berry, Michael Henderson, Michael Parkinson, David Lloyd, Tim Rice, Mike Atherton, Michael Holding, Rod Marsh and John Major.

Rod Marsh, Australian wicketkeeper has described him as a passionate opponent. "Rob was a good bloke to play against. You always knew you were in for a contest - and at the end of the day, you always knew you were in for a cold beer with him. It was a great way to play cricket.

He was always at you, Bob, that was the main thing. When he had his rhythm, he was quite sharp; when he didn't, like all fast bowlers, he was very gettable. You could tell when he was in rhythm because eveything seemed to go right with his run-up, but when he wasn't, there was a certain hesitancy about the way he approached the crease, and he'd over-pitch or bowl too short. When he was in rhythm, he always seemed to find the right length."

Dennis Lille, one of the greatest fast bowlers, in his book, Menace: The Autobiography (2003) had remarked: "What was great was Bob Willis's bowling in our second innings. That was the greatest one-off sustained effort I ever saw from a fast bowling in the entire time I played cricket, with the crowd roaring him on. To me, it was Willis's match, despite the superhero thing about Botham."

Scyld Berry calls him one of England's finest bowling captains and believes a record of seven Tests won and five lost out of 18 (winning % 38.88) is as good as that of most England captains. To have taken 77 wickets at just 21.59 runs apiece, including three five-wicket hauls, while the captain, should be forever remembered as a superlative achievement.

After the tributes are over, this splendid publication moves on to consider Six Memorable Tests other than the 1981 Headingley Test.

The book is well worth reading and will provide much to think and talk about. The quality of the paper, superb snaps and the generous spacing all enhance the fascinating material. The book is handsomely produced and economically priced.