You can never replace Bob Willis

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Bob Willis died today, which is rubbish.

Willis was a top drawer fast bowler and responsible for one of the finest displays in Test history. Near enough 40 years later, that spell is still looked upon as a Big Thing. We presume it always be.

Later, he became an adequate commentator. We have no strong feelings either way about this aspect of his work.

In the last few years, Willis had become the central pillar of The Verdict on Sky Sports. In that role, he is simply irreplaceable.

We don’t know whose idea it was to bung him in a studio and give him free rein to slag England off whenever they had a bad day, but whoever it was, they’re a genius. As was Bob.

As a rule of thumb, if it was a good day for England, you watched the highlights, and if it was a terrible day for England, you skipped the highlights and watched Bob tear them 10,000 new arseholes on The Verdict. It was essential viewing.

He did it partly in a knowing way, but also in a heartfelt way that can’t really be faked. That was the tightrope-walking brilliance of the man. We’ll confess there were days when we actively willed England to perform worse, purely so we could see what he delivered on The Verdict.

We’ll miss him enormously.


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  1. Yes. It is fair to say that The Verdict hasn’t been the same with Roberts Croft and Key on there in place of the big man. I was wondering where the maestro was. Now I know. I wish I didn’t.

  2. Goes without saying that he’ll be missed.

    I think there’s some connection between the sort of emotion that drove That Spell and the sort of pissed-off-with-everythingness that often manifested in his assassination of rubbish England players.

    1. Nice one Ged. It’s been striking that amongst all the obits and stories about him that have come out since yesterday, every single one I’ve read has been really nice and have shown him in a good light. Bob seems to have been a classy guy.

  3. Top stat via Andy Zaltzman:

    Willis scored 840 Test runs, ave 11.5, highest score 28* – no-one else has scored more than 500 without reaching 30.

  4. My Dad told me when I was a kid that Willis meditated under pyramids. I’ve no idea if it is true or not, but it always will be to me.

  5. He was 100% Bob Willis, not even a little bit like anyone else. That’s what was special about him, his bobwillissness. In everything he did, whether it was rolling the Australians for 111 or his withering commentary on England, he just exuded personality – his personality, not some polished media version or artificial exuberance.

    Cricket has been lucky to have quite a few of these types, people not afraid to just be themselves. Bob Willis was a wonderful example, and I am very sad today.

    Here is a photograph to cheer me up. He’s showing her proper batting technique. Why is Bob Willis showing anyone proper batting technique? She already looks like she gets it better than Bob. But Bob understands what he’s doing.

    As does Derek Randall, incidentally.

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