Edited by David Willis

Published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd,
Carmelite House,
50 Victoria Embankment,
London EC4Y 0DZ


Pages: 284

MRP: £20


It still seems surreal that Bob Willis is no longer with us. Many of us have very fond memories of the big man, but now we have the memories of others close to him and in book form in this fine book Bob Willis A Cricketer and a Gentleman, edited by Bob's brother, David.

Friend and Daily Mail journalist, Mike Dickson, has written up Bob's life, and the book also includes some of Bob's forthright writing in diaries and books; some of his most famous television comments; reminiscences of his contemporaries, and an article on his initial thoughts when he was given the devastating news that he had cancer.

Whilst I read and roared at some of the things written about Bob and said by him, I did wonder at times whether it was appropriate to do so. As this is a celebration of Bob's life, though, then it does show that behind the earlier public persona - Mark Butcher is quoted as saying that "The public perception might have been of a miserable old sod...but it couldn't be further from the truth" - there was a fascinating man, interested in many areas of life and one who had a terrific sense of humour.

Close friend and fellow England bowler, Paul Allott, wonderfully describes how Willis was a better source of information for the London public transport system than the TfL website. Apparently, he championed the cause of public transport and was only late once and that at his funeral, when he might have gone by bus, according to Allott, the hearse having become stuck in traffic. Willis once described staying in the Charing Cross Hotel during a Test thus: " Despite the supposed soundproofing, there isn't much goes on in the station below that we don't know about."

Bob will rightly be remembered for his final day's eight for 43 at Headingley in 1981 which not only kept him in the team but which later led to his becoming captain. There is much more to him than that, though. The tributes given to Bob are joyful and fun. There is a section devoted to six memorable Tests in which he made outstanding contributions also.

It says much about Bob that his memorable bowling action has been imitated by many over the years. What a sight it was when he was in full flow. What a sight it still was even if, in earlier days, it didn't quite look as free-flowing. What a sight seeing him field in the slips even though this book has pointed out to me that this is not so unremarkable given that Bob played as a goalkeeper in his early days. In the Chainsaw Bob section, he describes enjoyably Sir Alastair Cook's only Test wicket using his own famous bowling action (but at lesser pace).

Bob Willis A Cricketer and a Gentleman is a wonderful book and congratulations are due to David Willis and Mike Dickson as well as all the many who have so wonderfully described one of England cricket's true heroes. Bob had many interests ranging from music (Wagner to Dylan, whose song lyrics he seems to have known as well as the Tube times); a beer and wine aficionado; steam train buff and hiker and, of course, cricket and indeed other sports including tennis and golf. If anyone was unaware of Bob Willis the man, this is a splendid book to read and savour. All advance payment and royalties, less expenses, will be given to Prostate Cancer UK by Bob's wife and daughter.