Bob Willis Bio: Cricketer, Fast Bowler & Cause of Death

Often called the Gentleman’s Sport, Cricket is popular, gentlemanly like the name suggests. The World has seen some truly remarkable players like Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Vivian Richards, and Bob Willis. 

Born on 30th May 1949, Robert George Dylan Willis, better known as Bob Willis, was an incredible English cricketer.

Furthermore, he played for the national team of England, Surrey County Cricket Club, Warwickshire County Cricket Club, and Northern Transvaal Team.

Willis was a right-arm fast bowler known for his aggressive fast bowling that often left the batsmen catching a breath. Moreover, he was a force to be reckoned with on the circle ground.

 Bob Willis
A handsome Bob Willis in the 1970s

Before diving into his life in a detailed manner, here are some quick and interesting facts about his life that may interest you!

Bob Willis: Quick Facts

Full NameRobert George Dylan Willis
Birth DateMay 30, 1949
Birth PlaceSunderland County, Durham, England
Nick NamesBob Willis
EducationNot Known
Father’s NameTed Willis
Mother’s NameAnne Huntington Willis
SiblingsOne Older Brother David Willis, One Older Sister
Age[calculate years datestring=”05/30/1949″] Years Old
Height6 ft. 6 inches
Sexual OrientationStraight
Hair ColorLight Brown
Eye ColorBrown
Body MeasurementN/A
Marital StatusMarried
WifeFirst wife Juliet Smail; Second wife, Lauren Clark
ChildrenA daughter
ProfessionProfessional Cricketer
Net Worth$2 million
Death4 December 2019
Other ProfessionCommentary, TV Show Guest
Cause of DeathProstate Cancer
Social MediaN/A

Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a Gentleman: The Sunday Times Bestseller

Last Update2021

Where was Willis Born? – Childhood, Cricket, and Education

Bob was born in Sunderland, County Durham, to Ted Willis and his wife, Anne Huntington Willis. His father was a radio subeditor and then a news executive for the BBC.  

Further, Willis had a brother named David and an older sister, whose name is not available. Moreover, Bob and David played cricket tirelessly in the backyard of their home all day. 

As a kid, he studied at Royal Grammar School in Guildford. Apart from cricket, Willis also actively played football. However, he was not interested in the most popular game in his school, rugby.

Bob Willis
Bob Willis bowling in a match against Australia

One interesting fact about Willis is that he added the middle name “Dylan” in 1965 as per his own wish because he was a huge fan of the musician Bob Dylan

Moreover, his extraordinary bowling skills got him to play for Surrey Schools and the Surrey Colts as they selected him. Consequently, he was guided by Watcyn Evans, who later became a good friend of his.

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Bob Willis’ Rise to Prominence As The Best Bowler

County Career Debut – Amateur Games

Willis joined the Surrey and Middlesex Young Cricketers on their tour to Pakistan. Hence, he used this opportunity to work on his skills and become a better bowler. 

After his return, Bob joined Surrey’s second XI and, at the young age of 19, took a wicket against Worcestershire’s Seconds team. Two days after that match, he faced Glamorgan and took three wickets.

Bob Willis
Bob Willis working his magic.

As a part of Second XIs, he played multiple games. Then, he got to make his first-ever debut in the first-class team in 1969 August. 

He took three wickets for thirteen runs in that debut match in thirteen overs in his first innings. That first-class season, Willis took 22 wickets in six matches. Further, this ranked him in the top 15 of the national average of England.

Thanks to his excellent performance in the previous season, Willis earned a second season at the Surrey’s. In 1970, Willis played in 14 championship matches. 

In the said matches, he took 40 wickets at the run rate of 28.37 and thirty-one wickets in one-day matches at 14.65. That year, Surrey ranked fifth in the Championship. 

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Australian National Team

One awe-inspiring game was at the quarter-finals of the Gillette Cup against Middlesex. Surrey had a score of 280 with 5 wickets down.

Middlesex won the game, but Willis bowled extraordinarily and turned the game upside down as the Middlesex finished in 272 with 9 wickets down. Willis won the man of the match award for the same.

Bob Willis
Bob Willis celebrating after a victory

When the captain and vice-captain for the English Test Team side approached Willis over the telephone, he agreed to travel to Australia and join the National Team there.

This was a piece of great news for Willis as he was thinking of taking a job at the Crystal Palace Recreation Center for the winter because Surrey kept him on the sidelines on many occasions.

International Career Beginnings for Bob Willis

Bob Willis got the golden chance to join the national team of England on the 1970-72 tour to Australia when he had to replace the injured Alan Ward. 

Willis played multiple warm-up matches for the Marylebone Cricket Club. As a result, England won the test series, and The Wisden commented on it as, 

“Bob willis’ infectious enthusiasm and team spirit played no small part in Australia’s downfall”

Willis played his first test match in the fourth match of the same series, and he scored fifteen not out.

England batted first and scored a total of 332. He also took his first test wicket in the tournament against Ashley Mallet.

Bob Willis truly shined during the last two matches when he took three wickets and four in the final series that helped England secure victory in the said series.

At the end of the test series, Willis had amassed 12 wickets and took several crucial catches. He also took two wickets in the following test match series that happened in New Zealand.

From Surrey to Warwickshire

After his successful time at both the test series, he returned to Surrey and helped the team win the Championship title that year.

After his contract with the team was up, he chose not to renew it due to the growing misunderstanding between them.

Additionally, he rejected offers from clubs like Leicestershire and Lancashire to join Warwickshire. As a result, his incredible performance immediately showed results, and he took 25 wickets.

Willis even took a five-wicket in one innings in a game impressive for any bowler even today. Hence, he helped the team win the championship of 1972 and became one of the few players who won titles with different county teams.

Thus, 1973 was a season full of injuries for Willis. Despite that, he managed to secure 43 wickets in the Championship. But, the injury prevented him from attending the Test match against West Indies Cricket Team.

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Because the injury persisted throughout the 1974/75 season, he had to take several painkilling injections to decrease the pain and get back to work.

Bob Willis
Bob Willis with other cricketers

Owing to the same injury, Willis had to return to England to treat it. Not only that, he went through multiple operations, suffered from a post-operative blood clot.

Also, to improve from the surgeries, he had to rigorously perform exercises and gym programs that helped him get better slowly and build stamina.

“A Fine Piece of Fast Bowling”

Further, that year, Willis played 13 championship games for the Warwickshire Club. He also played in the Australian Series, played against India and Pakistan in Test Matches, and even scored his best in test match batting by scoring 24 runs.

After the injury became a little better, he returned to the field once again to play in the county game, where he took 16 wickets in the few matches he played. Then, Willis even scored his personal best in batting with 43 runs. 

Seeing that he got better from the injury, Willis was allowed to play the test match against west indies, where he took three wickets with 71 runs and then a whopping five wickets in the second innings.

Willis also completed past 50 test wickets for the first time. Talking about his last three wickets in the test series, Wisden mentioned that it was 

“a fine piece of fast bowling”

Constant Injuries and On and Off Matches

Despite having injuries that persistently tortured him time and again, Willis became the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1978. Willis also managed to bag the third position in the Benson and Hedges Cup.

Further, He completed a total of 16 wickets at the run rate of 6.5 runs. Moreover, this included an impressive four doors in only four runs in one of the innings.

During the county championship season, he played in 10 games and took 37 wickets. Dylan also won the Man of The Match award when Pakistan had toured England in 1978.

Moreover, in 1978, in all the first-class matches that he played, he took a total of 65 wickets at the run rate of 18.41. This was his highest wickets over run rate in any season up until now.

When England held the World Cup in 1979, Bob Willis was also a part of its 13 men team.  Consequently, England slowly progressed in the tournament and reached the semi-finals.

Then, Bob Willis had to miss the final match due to another injury.

Bob Willis
Bob Willis with Mohammed Ali

In addition, Willis attended all the matches for the World Cup Series that England played. However, he did not do that great of a job.

So, he could only bring six wickets in the run-rate of over 74 runs. Consequently, he became the captain at the county club, Warwickshire. 

Captaincy and Advancement in Career

After that, Willis then participated in the ODI matches against West Indies but was only included for one game where he took two wickets and made two catches. 

The same year, Willis faced the West Indies team again for four matches, where he took more than 10 wickets. Hence, England lost the game in that series. 

Furthermore, in the county front, Willis took a total of 27 wickets at 31.70 runs. During that season, he totaled 23 wickets in the ODI series. 

After that, in 1982, Bob Willis was appointed captaincy of the English National Team for their ODI match against India.

As a result, he took two wickets and assisted in a run-out. England won both the games against India, and Willis completed his first captaincy with success.

Bob Willis
Doing his captain duties in a match.

Soon after, Willis led the English team to Australia for the 1982-83 Ashes. Due to injuries, he could not continue much further with the game, and his teammate had to take up the captaincy.

Bob Willis – Life after Cricket

When he retired from playing cricket, Willis decided to join the BBC TV Cricket and summarize for the Chanel. Later, he joined Sky Sports in 1990 for commentary purposes but was soon dropped from front-line commentary duties. 

However, as a commentator, Bob Willis did not achieve the same success as a cricketer as he was often condemned for his “melancholic style” and that. 

“He used the same note of voice – like the drone of your neighbors mower”

Personal Life, Wife, and Cancer – Bob Willis

Firstly, Bob Willis got married to his first wife named Juliet Smail, in 1980, and they had a daughter together who was born in 1984. But, they got divorced in 2005. After that, Willis got married to his second wife, Lauren Clark, in 2014. 

Because he spent his youngster years in Manchester, he was a huge supporter and fan of the Manchester United Football Club. 

After a three-year battle with Prostate Cancer, Bob Willis passed away on 4th December 2019 at 70.


What did Bob Willis die of?

Willis passed away after his long battle with Prostate Cancer.

What did Bob Willis do in Cricketer?

Bob Willis is one of the best fast bowlers of all time despite being a player from yesteryears.

What is Bob Willis’ Net Worth?

Bob Willis has a net worth of about $2 million, according to sources.

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