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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bob Willis is no more !!

A hypocorism is a diminutive form of a name.

In England’s tour of India 1976-77, the man much talked about was John Lever, especially after his spell at Delhi and the Vaseline controversy that followed.  Remember at Chepauk, Lever running in and then this tall loose-limbed  fast bowler with a very long run-up steaming in.  One of his bouncers flew so high that short Alan Knott’s jump was nowhere nearer.  He studied at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford and was a great fan of   Bob Dylan, the American singer. 

Though he was not a great success at Chepauk, in the 2nd Test at Kolkatta in Jan 1977, he was instrumental in their victory by 10 wickets.  In the first innings, he had figures of 20-3-27-5 and added another 2 in the 2nd.  In the next test, he took 6 wickets in an innings.  Bob Willis was the tall,  fast bowler.  Bob is a male given name or a hypocorism, usually of Robert, and sometimes a diminutive of Bobby. It is most common in English speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Robert George Dylan Willis MBE (1949 –2019) is no more !  .. he 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 England's fourth leading wicket taker as of 2019, behind Jimmy Anderson, Ian Botham and Stuart Broad.  Though he delivered raw pace, 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. He was Wisden Cricketer of the Year for 1978.

Bob Willis, the former England cricket captain, has died aged 70, his family announced on Tuesday.   A case could be made that Bob Willis was the most courageous fast bowler who ever played for England. After operations on both knees in 1975, when he was 26, he seldom bowled without pain, and at one stage had to run five miles a day to build the strength to play at all. Yet through sheer willpower he sustained his career for nine more years, and emerged with 325 wickets from his 90 Tests. Nicknamed "Goose" for his unconventionally loose-limbed approach to the crease, Willis was capable of extreme hostility with the ball, making him England's one true answer to the West Indian and Australian pace batteries that dominated the 1970s and early 1980s.

His finest hour came at Headingley in 1981, when - in the wake of Ian Botham's counter-attacking 149 not out - he tore into Australia's second innings in a frenzied display, delivering an incredible 18-run win with figures of 8 for 43.

After retiring from the game in 1984, he  enjoyed a long career in broadcasting. Willis’ family said in a statement: “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.” 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.

Sandeep Patil was battling disappoints but was selected for the England tour in 1982.  At Manchester,  he hit Bob Willis for six fours (4440444, the third ball being a no ball) -  racing from 73 to 104 in nine balls. He was 129 not out when rain brought an early end to the match.

Remembering Bob Willis, the fast bowler !

Regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th Dec 2019.

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