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Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a Gentleman by Mike Dickson & others Edited by David Willis

Release date: 09th August, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Staughton

List Price: 20.00
Our Price: 20.00
You Save: 0 (0%)
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Rarely does a sport-related hardback priced at £20 sell out within three days, especially when the original print run is a chunky 15,000 copies.

Yet the fact that the book flew off the shelves when published earlier this month provides the clearest possible indication of the high regard in which Bob Willis continues to be held. Bob ‘The Goose’ Willis died of prostate cancer last December aged just 70 and proceeds from Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a Gentleman are earmarked for charities working to defeat the disease.

The abiding memory of Willis for those of us sporting more than the odd grey hair was his superhuman effort at Headingley in 1981 which helped defeat the Australians.

England were forced to follow-on when Ian Botham made a ridiculously cavalier 149 not out in the second innings, thus giving English supporters the consolation of knowing the Aussies had to bat again. The tourists required 130 to win. Cue sporting history. You could almost hear the ground shudder as Willis ran up to bowl, a man on a mission to emulate his mate, Beefy.

In the space of 15 overs Willis took eight Australian wickets, conceding just 43 runs as the tourists were bowled out for 111. It still gives me goosebumps writing about it.

The book is split into two parts: the first a fine biography by Mike Dickson, the second a series of engaging essays, replete with amusing anecdotes and a host of entertaining tales written by Tim Rice, John Major, Michael Parkinson and other close friends of the great man.

Modern-day television viewers who didn’t see Willis at his playing prime may suspect he was a dour, po-faced bloke. He was certainly opinionated in front of the TV cameras, but away from his place of work he was a comical, droll type not averse to playing air guitar and listening to Bob Dylan. The story goes that he opted for the comfort of the television studio after he took charge of an England under-19 tour to the West Indies and had to contend with a youthful, but no less mischievous Phil Tufnell. Who could blame him?

Willis’s early death came as a shock; however, not only does a Cricketer and a Gentleman offer an appropriate legacy (at twenty quid, it’s a snip), it will also contribute to a determined effort to defeat an undesirable opponent. Big Bob would be delighted.

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