Bob Willis was a "terror to face," Indian great Kapil Dev said on Thursday, revealing that the England fast bowling legend, who died aged 70, was the only one to ever hit him with the ball. In a Test in England, Willis pitched the ball short and Kapil Dev went for his signature "Nataraj" pull shot, the former all-rounder said as he paid tribute to Willis whose death was announced on Wednesday. "It was a very sharp ball, faster than I had imagined, and hit me on the ear. It was the only time I was struck," the World Cup-winning captain, 60, told the Hindu daily.
"Willis was a terrific fast bowler, with a run-up that was unique. Not a fluent run-up but once the ball left his hand it was terror for batsmen," he said.
He added: "I never heard Willis swear at a batsman, never saw him argue with the umpire. He did not believe in talking. He wanted his ball to speak for him. A true legend he was."
Sandeep Patil recalled meanwhile that despite having in 1982 smashed Willis for six fours in one over, as well as for four fours in the 1983 World Cup semi-final, the Englishman was frightening to come up against.
The middle-order master said he was "never comfortable facing (Willis). He would put fear in the mind of the batsman with his searing pace. You had to watch him very closely as he neared the stumps and be ready for the thunderbolts that he would unleash. Thunderbolts they were."
Patil added to the Hindu newspaper that in the infamous 1982 encounter, the lanky Englishman, best known for his 8-43 demolition of Australia in the 1981 Ashes, had still congratulated him for his century.
"How many would do that? He should have been annoyed with what I had achieved, but here he was patting me. He won my respect that day," Patil said.
And in the next Test, Willis hit him on the helmet.
"He made a sign that it was all squared up. I had hit for six fours and he had struck me on my helmet. He did not speak a word. I never heard him abuse either, on the field. He was a lovable fast bowler," Patil said.
Willis played in 90 Tests, taking 325 wickets with his aggressive pace bowling and also captained England for a spell before retiring in 1984 and taking up a career in broadcasting.
Yashpal Sharma, who saw off Willis in 1982 in Chennai in a knock of 140, said that the Englishman "second to none, in speed, skill, and feats."
"If the pitch helped him, he was a terror, unplayable. Willis was a bowler who never allowed you to relax for a moment. His incoming ball was hard to spot and tackle," Sharma told the Hindu.
"He was a quiet man on the field. His bowling spoke for him. I would rate him alongside Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall in terms of speed. What I liked most was how he appreciated the opponent even though he competed hard on the field," Sharma added.
"A rare gentleman fast bowler."