Bob Willis no more: Cricket has lost a dear friend

New Delhi: Condolences poured in from all quarters of the cricket fraternity after the demise of former England captain Bob Willis. Willis, who spearheaded the England bowling attack for more than a decade, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 70 after prolonged illness.

Offering condolences to Willis’ family, England pacer Stuart Broad termed him a legend and wrote: “Gutted to hear the news of Bob Willis passing. A lovely person with a great humour who was so proud of England cricket.”

“Such a sad time for cricket fans all around the world. Rest in Peace Bob. You shall be remembered forever for what you have done on the pitch!” said Vivian Richards.

“Bob Willis was completely different off air, to the, ‘man off his long run’, on air! Very very funny man and loved life! He will be missed…,” tweeted Kevin Pietersen.

“Such sad news regarding the legend Bob Willis. An icon of the game I love, growing up as an 11 year old watching big Bob running down the hill 8/43 at the home of cricket Headingley. I’ll miss you Bob. A glass of red will be raised tonight,” said Darren Gough.

“Incredibly sad to hear the news about Bob Willis. He was a true great, generous in sharing his knowledge about the game and a lovely man. RIP Bob,” wrote James Anderson on Twitter.

“Such sad news. Bob was an English legend, inspired a generation of fast bowlers around the world & was a good bloke. RIP mate,” said Glenn McGrath.

“Had the absolute pleasure of spending time with Bob Willis over the years. A lovely man. A very sad day. Deepest sympathies to all his family and friends,” wrote Jason Gillespie.

In a career that spanned 90 Test matches between 1971 and 1984, Willis took 325 wickets. He was England’s all time highest wicket taker at the time of his retirement and only Australia’s Dennis Lillee had taken more wickets in the longest format of the game at the time.

Willis remains fourth on the England all timers’ list, behind former team mate Ian Botham (383), Stuart Broad (471) and James Anderson (575). He also played 64 ODIs and took 80 wickets.

He was captain of England for 18 Tests and 29 ODIs before his retirement in 1984.

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), while offering condolences, said ‘cricket has lost a dear friend.’

Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin said: “I wasn’t fortunate enough to see him bowl but loved his sense of humour and insights on the game. Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Bob Willis.”

“Saddened at the news of the passing away of Bob Willis. Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,” tweeted VVS Laxman.

Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) also paid tribute to the former England pacer and wrote: “We’re very sad to hear of the passing of MCC Honorary Life Member, Bob Willis. A Lord’s legend & former England captain whose name is on the Honours Boards three times. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.”

Willis played for Surrey in his first two years of professional cricket and spent the rest of his career playing for Warwickshire. He finished his first class career with 899 wickets from 308 first-class matches at an average of 24.99.

He needed surgery on both knees in 1975, four years after he had made his debut and still went on to become one of the most successful fast bowlers of all time.