Bob Willis, funny and acerbic on camera, kind and warm behind it

Those of us lucky to know him well have golden memories of friendship, a gift that comes in many guises. With Bobby, friendship came in an unconditional, organic form and with a leaning towards kindness. Examples of it have been everywhere this past couple of days but none better illustrates his legacy than the journey made by two fine men of Adelaide, one a wine-maker, the other from the motor industry, who travelled to sit by his bed last week and share the final chapter. They, like Sir Ian Botham who telephoned with the news, are beset by grief.

Bob knew right and wrong like few others and when I sought his advice at the early stage of my stuttering career, he invited me to dinner at a favourite Indian restaurant. In summary, his message was: “Be true to yourself, trust yourself, leave nothing out there and let others do the worrying.”

Thus, it was a privilege to join Sky in 1995 and be able to work with him. We lived nearby and invariably travelled by car together – I was always at the wheel, Bob never drove – creating a road trip narrative to our life that covered anything and everything but always, by the time we hit the North Circular on the way home, came back to our respective affections for Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. While filtering left to the A40 and into town, the cursing of political leaders and pusillanimous cricket administrators was drowned out by “Visions of Johanna” or “Thunder Road”.

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He could be very funny, a point often missed by TV viewers who failed to pick up the wit in the barb and the relevance in the fun. He was a fine broadcaster and his role in The Cricket Debate, Sky’s Test match review show, became cult.

When I left Sky for Channel 4, he never once judged the new kids on the block, only encouraged. Neither did he talk behind our back, preferring to applaud when something was well done and otherwise keep his counsel. I valued that more than words can say. First up for Bob was warmth and kindness, like a beacon in the often selfish world of professional sport.

Meantime, I shall think of his smile and remember our wonderful lunch in London this last autumn, bathed as it was by sunshine and with the best of friends from cricket and his other lives.

Yes, the memories will linger of a brilliant cricketer and an even more brilliant and inspirational man. I will leave the final word to his own greatest inspiration – the other Bob, Dylan.

“May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the light surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young…”

And, apart for the grey hair (!), that was Bobby. He knew the truth, he lent us his wisdom and he lived his life with the heart of a lion.