LONDON —- Bob Willis, one of English cricket’s all-time Ashes heroes, has died at 70. He played 90 Tests and 64 one-day international after starting his England career in 1971 before embarking on a long career as a TV pundit.
Willis is fourth on the list of all-time England wicket takers behind James Anderson, Ian Botham and Stuart Broad, and will be best remembered for his decisive role in the ‘Botham’s Ashes’ Test triumph at Headingley in 1981.
He took eight for 43 as he enabled England to grab the most unlikely of Test victories against the old enemy.
Willis leaves wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.
A family statement said: “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.”
Former England captain David Gower described Willis as “a very loyal friend and a loyal supporter”.
Gower told BBC Radio: “I toured with him as a captain and I took over the captaincy from him and then had him as what was called in those days as an assistant manager. He was a very loyal friend and a loyal supporter.
“There is a huge contrast to Bob because a lot of people, especially in recent years, have seen him doing Sky’s ‘The Debate’, ‘Verdict’ those sort of programmes where his opinions have been put across in great style.
“He’s been a multi-faceted character. He’s a Bob Dylan fan, the fact he changed his name by deed poll to Robert George Dylan Willis gives you a clue there. He could tell you any Dylan lyric over the last 5000 years.
“He was a bright man, very opinionated in all sorts of things, not just cricket, and was such very, very good company and not just a wine connoisseur.”
England team director Ashley Giles tweeted: “Such sad news about Bob Willis, he was a great man”
The England and Wales Cricket Board said that “cricket had lost a dear friend”. A statement added: “The ECB is deeply saddened to say farewell to Bob Willis, a legend of English cricket,.
“Bob spearheaded the England bowling attack for more than a decade and took 325 Test wickets.
“He will always be remembered for his outstanding cricket career, in particular his eight for 43 in the dramatic Headingley Test victory over Australia in 1981.
“In later years as a broadcaster Bob was a perceptive and respected voice at the microphone. We are forever thankful for everything he has done for the game.
Everyone at the ECB sends sincere condolences to his family. Cricket has lost a dear friend.”