Bob Willis was a brutal pundit who blackballed players, not the nicest bloke you’d ever meet - Chris Waters

IT would be ironic if Yorkshire went on to win the Bob Willis Trophy.

Former England cricketer Bob Willis: Harsh critic. Picture: PA

After all, he lambasted their players consistently as a pundit, his criticism so brutal at times that Martyn Moxon, the club’s director of cricket, once branded him “anti-Yorkshire” and said that he could not watch Sky television’s The Verdict as a result.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up of hearing this stuff about Willis being one of the nicest blokes you could ever meet and if only we’d known the real Bob, we’d all realise what a super fellow he was and change our opinion of him.

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We’ve heard this countless times, in fact, in various tributes – mainly on Sky – and in sundry media outlets since Willis sadly passed away last December.

England's Adil Rashid: Under fire. Picture: PA

I have no doubt whatsoever that those tributes are genuine and that his friends’ impressions of him are accurate.

Indeed, to hear them speak so warmly is testament to the fact that Willis had many great qualities in addition to his excellence on the field as one of the finest fast bowlers in the game’s history.

However, as a pundit, he was, in my opinion, one of the most callous and self-serving that has ever drawn fire, his determination to play up to the image, or however else you want to dress it up/play it down, coming at the expense of young cricketers who neither appreciated the “joke” nor deserved such treatment.

Players from most, if not all, counties were in the Willis firing line, and none more so than the Yorkshire lads.

This was a man who once said, after all, that the outstanding Jonny Bairstow “hasn’t any sort of defence to play Test cricket, looks like a rabbit in the headlights and can’t bat above No 8 in an England Test team”, among sundry slights delivered with a sneering contempt.

This was a man who once described the brilliant leg-spinner Adil Rashid as “completely useless” and said “there’s no way in the world” England could take him on a tour of South Africa because “the grounds aren’t big enough” and that “AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla will be hitting him into the ocean at Durban”.

This was a man who said that the gifted Adam Lyth is “out of his depth” and will “never make it for England”. And this was a man who rubbished the similarly gifted Gary Ballance as someone who “bats with his shoelaces tied together”, and so on.

Fair enough if you like that sort of thing, and plenty obviously did, seeing as Willis had a long career with Sky and seemed to revel in the notoriety such nastiness camouflaged as dry humour gave him.

But he was talking very publicly about young sportsmen making their way in the public gaze and who, I know for a fact in certain cases, were badly affected by this kind of stuff.

“Ah, yes, but if only they’d known the real Bob…”. Try telling that to the family of a young player who has to hear him described on national TV as “completely useless”.

Willis was lucky; any journalist who came out with the sort of bile that he came out with would be blackballed by the players he had to deal with and soon lose the support of his employers, too.

All of which reinforces my view that it’s not journalists that players have to worry about but rather former players who, in Willis’s case, long forgot – or simply didn’t care – that he once walked in the footsteps of the very people he attacked with impunity from a safe distance.

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