Full name Michael David Willett
Born April 21, 1933, West Norwood, London
Died January 24, 2002, Sanderstead, Surrey (aged 68 years 278 days)
Major teams Surrey
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium
|First-class span||1955 - 1967|
|List A span||1964 - 1966|
Willett, Michael David, died at Sanderstead on January 24, 2002, aged 68. In another time, or another county perhaps, Mike Willett's career might have been different. But he joined the Oval staff as a teenager in 1950, with Surrey on the cusp of the roll that brought eight titles in nine years. Opportunities for apprentice batsmen were thinly scattered, and when they came Willett never converted his second-team form into first-team runs in the way that contemporaries such as Micky Stewart, Ken Barrington and John Edrich did. When at last he established himself in the early 1960s, hitting 1,000 runs three times in four seasons, a serious knee injury cruelly cut his career short. Like Stewart, he played amateur football for Corinthian Casuals, and there was something of the amateur in the way he played his cricket. His debut, in the last Championship game of 1955, was a low-scoring affair in which only he, with 25, and Jim Laker reached double figures, adding 63 of Surrey's 101: they still won by eight wickets in two days. Between then and 1960, however, he managed only 18 Championship games. And when in 1960 Fred Trueman, his RAF team-mate back in their National Service days, dismissed him for a pair while twice taking three wickets in five balls, Willett may have wondered if his immediate future lay in the family motor business rather than cricket. Then, in his first game of 1961, he hit his maiden hundred - 105 not out against Worcestershire - and the wheel turned, even if Surrey did slump to a worst-ever 15th in the Championship. In August he made 126 against Kent, and finished the summer with 1,593 first-class runs at 30.63. Though the next season produced barely more than 500, he reached his thousand again in 1963, Stewart's first year as captain; his two hundreds included an unbroken stand of 193 with Barrington against the champions, Yorkshire. In 1964 he was the ninth Englishman in the firstclass averages, making 1,789 runs at 45.87. Among his four hundreds was the fastest of the summer (80 minutes against Middlesex at The Oval), while in equalling his career-best 126, against Hampshire at Bournemouth, he struck his second fifty in 30 minutes, with 48 coming in boundaries. At Gravesend, Willett and Barrington put on 230 for the fourth wicket against Kent. But a cartilage operation in 1965 sidelined him from mid-May to late August and, while his fielding remained vibrant, he never rediscovered his batting form. Two years later he retired and concentrated his sporting energies on club cricket and golf. In 172 first-class games he had scored 6,535 runs at 28.66, including eight hundreds, held 95 catches, and taken 23 wickets at 48.04 with the medium pace that served Surrey well in Second Eleven cricket.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
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