After the death of Bob Willis from prostate cancer in December 2019, the cricket world was galvanised into action. Bob’s wife, Lauren Clark, is leading a fundraising charge for Prostate Cancer UK and calling for better diagnostic tools for the disease.
An England legend in his playing days, Bob Willis continued to charm all in the cricket world using his quick wit and charm to great success as a pundit. His death prompted an outpouring of tributes and now those close to him feel it's time for action.
His meandering run-up and mop of curly hair during his playing days and subsequent punditry success, Bob Willis was a unique, beloved character in the world of cricket.
An undoubted England legend, Willis made 90 test appearances for his country and played a starring role in England’s famous third test victory over Australia in 1981, taking an incredible 8-43 at Headingley. He then turned to punditry after retirement, joining the BBC’s panel of experts before moving to Sky Sports.
Bob's Diagnosis and the effect on his family
"Bob was just stoic and accepting of it. He never complained once during the whole time, took everything onboard. We just carried on having fun,” Lauren said.
"The fact that in the UK, prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed of all the cancers goes to show why a lot more needs to be done into prostate cancer research."
Yes, it's true that only men can get it; I can't get it, but like too many wives, partners and families - I couldn't have been more affected by it.”
The urgent need for accurate testing
Bob’s book - ‘A Cricketer and a Gentleman’ - a collection of tales from across his career edited by his brother, David. was launched at The Oval this summer and has flown off the shelves, with a reprint on the way. The proceeds from sales will be invested into our research.
"I would love to see an improved blood test, more accurate than the PSA test, that determines the severity of prostate cancer much quicker, so that men and their families can understand sooner how aggressive or otherwise their disease is,” Lauren added.
“The PSA test is the best we’ve got, but it wasn't accurate for Bob. We clearly need a better test than that."
The Bob Willis Trophy
The English Cricket Board (ECB) made great strides in ensuring Bob’s great legacy lives on by naming the first tournament of the year after him, with the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy providing a much-needed return to the sport post-lockdown. The tournament has seen all 18 country sides go head-to-head in regionalised group tables, with Essex and Somerset going head-to-head in the competition’s showpiece at Lord’s later this week.
Bob’s popularity was felt again in England’s test match against Pakistan in early August, with his former Sky Sports Cricket colleagues paying glowing tributes - all whilst proudly wearing their Man of Men pin badges. Cricket fans watching at home played their part too, donating more than £25,000 to Prostate Cancer UK during the broadcast.
"I want to help people with prostate cancer. I want Bob to have a legacy,” Lauren said.
“I want to think about him all the time, so that's really why Bob's brother, David, and I are both so keen to support Prostate Cancer UK. There are a lot of things to be done about it and no time to waste."
The final of the Bob Willis Trophy begins on Wednesday September 23 at Lord’s. To buy a copy of ‘Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a Gentleman’, click here and you can donate to the Willis family’s JustGiving page here