Sir Ian: Bob was like a big brother

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - CRICKET

SIR Ian Botham has spo­ken of his shock and sad­ness at the death of ‘big brother’ Bob Wil­lis.

The for­mer Eng­land cap­tain died of can­cer on Wed­nes­day at the age of 70, prompt­ing a flood of trib­utes from across the crick­et­ing world.

Botham played with Wil­lis for Eng­land and con­tin­ued to work along­side him in broad­cast­ing once both had re­tired.

The 64-year-old Botham told Sky News: “He was a guy that, when­ever I had prob­lems in the crick­et­ing world or in (my) per­sonal life, he was al­ways there to help me.

“He was like a big brother and we had some amaz­ing times to­gether around the world. There are cer­tain friend­ships you have in your life but very few as close as it was with Bob.

“An amaz­ing guy, great crick­eter, very un­der­es­ti­mated by a lot of peo­ple for many years. He was the best quick bowler I played with rep­re­sent­ing Eng­land be­cause he was quick. He was a unique bowler, be­cause you would never teach any­one to run up and bowl like that.

“I knew that he was very, very ill. I saw him last Thurs­day, went down and sat with him for a while, but when it ac­tu­ally hap­pens it’s a ma­jor shock still. You can’t re­ally be pre­pared for los­ing such a close, close friend.”

For­mer Eng­land cap­tain Nasser Hus­sain, another col­league at Sky Sports, said Wil­lis’ death leaves a hole ‘that’s im­pos­si­ble to fill.’

Writ­ing on skys­ports.com, Hus­sain said: “Gen­uine, hu­mor­ous and down-to-earth - Bob Wil­lis loved life and leaves a hole in the crick­et­ing world that’s im­pos­si­ble to fill.

“He un­der­stood how lucky he was to be in­volved in cricket and was such a pleas­ant bloke to spend time with.”

Wil­lis re­mains Eng­land’s fourth­high­est wicket-taker of all time, tak­ing 325 scalps in 90 Tests, and his most fa­mous mo­ment as a player came in the re­mark­able third Ashes Test at Head­in­g­ley in 1981.

Botham’s in­nings of 149 had helped set Aus­tralia a target of just 130 to win when Wil­lis pro­duced the per­for­mance of his life, tak­ing eight for 43 to se­cure an im­prob­a­ble 18-run vic­tory.

A num­ber of cur­rent Eng­land play­ers paid trib­ute to Wil­lis.

Cap­tain Joe Root wrote: “A true Eng­land great. Fan­tas­tic player, pun­dit and a lovely man with a great sense of hu­mour. Love to all his close fam­ily and friends as well.”

James An­der­son, one of the three play­ers to take more wick­ets than Wil­lis for Eng­land, wrote: “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.”

Ian Botham with Bob Wil­lis dur­ing the sec­ond Ashes Test at Lords in 1981

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