The Bob Willis Fund

Posted: June 28 2023

Blue For Bob Day 2023

Blue For Bob Day 2023

Words by David Willis 

The third Blue for Bob Day was held at Edgbaston in Birmingham on the second day of the first Ashes Test Match between England and Australia – 17th June – and it proved an outstanding success.

Previous Blue for Bob days had been held in 2021 at the England v Pakistan One Day International and in 2022 during the England v India Test Match. The day is organised by the Bob Willis Fund, who are raising money and awareness for an improved diagnosis of prostate cancer. This disease killed Bob Willis in December 2019.

Blue for Bob is enthusiastically endorsed by the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Warwickshire County Cricket Club, for whom Bob played for most of his professional career. The England and Australia players also supported keenly. This year’s Blue for Bob began with both teams parading in bright sky blue caps in Bob’s memory and joined in forty-five seconds of applause (representing the one man who will die of prostate cancer every 45 minutes) while his image was flashed to all corners of the stadium.

It became obvious very quickly that, far from diminishing with the passage of time, Bob’s memory at Edgbaston grows ever more golden, and the support of the players, the cricket authorities, the crowd, Bob’s colleagues at SKY television and the audience watching at home was wholehearted and deeply felt.

Blue for Bob had started on two nights earlier with a lavish Eve of Test Dinner at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens staged jointly by the Bob Willis Fund and the West Midlands Lord’s Taverners, all carefully directed by their Chairman Tim Munton, a former playing colleague of Bob Willis at Warwickshire.

The whole of the Sky commentary team was in attendance and joined the host, former England cricket captain David Gower, on stage for a Q&A on the likely outcome of the Ashes series about to unfold the following day. The wit and wisdom of Mel Jones and Ricky Ponting from Australia and England stalwarts Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton made for a lively and informative conversation. The charity auction, which concluded the evening, was stunningly well-supported.

Blue for Bob Days consists of regular televisual messaging from celebrity personalities whose lives have been touched by prostate cancer. This year, MCC President Sir Stephen Fry was the Fund’s guest of honour and spoke emotionally about his own struggles with the disease. Former Luton Town footballer Mick Harford and his great friend, former Australian fast bowler Jeff Thomson were also interviewed. Away from the television cameras, the Bob Willis Bowling Zone saw donations flooding in as many from the crowd tried to beat the speed gun. At the same time, eye-catching wide-brimmed blue hats and caps started to appear around the ground, all endorsing the important message.

It is to be hoped that after three very successful Blue for Bob Days at Edgbaston, which have raised more than £1m, the Birmingham crowd supported by the audience at home will see the vital work of the Bob Willis Fund as a permanent feature of international cricket in the West Midlands. There is so much more that needs to be done.

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