The World of Cricket is a sadder place today following the news from South Africa overnight that the respected English cricket writer and former Somerset captain, Peter Roebuck, has been found dead at the Sun Newlands Hotel in Cape Town, at the age of 55.
Though the cause of death has yet to be confirmed, local sources say that earlier on Saturday evening Roebuck appeared to be ‘in a disturbed state’ It is understood that he was spoken to by police in his room on the sixth floor of the Southern Sun Hotel, Newlands, in Cape Town .
Millfield and Cambridge educated, Peter Roebuck was an intelligent, complex and often misunderstood person whose ability as an opening batsman was often overshadowed by other events.
ESPN in a tribute tells of his background and love for the game, and yes some of the controversies too which often he became involved in, when captain of Somerset . “He made his debut for Somerset 2nd XI in 1969 at 13 as a leg spinner, joining the county properly on leaving school in 1974. His three years at Cambridge were productive in that he got a First in law as well as excelling at cricket, making 158 in the first of his three Varsity matches, although it took him until 1978 before he became established in the county side just at the time they were beginning on the most successful period in the previously trophy less history.
His batting style was solid rather than spectacular, and his contributions were often overlooked in a side which boasted Ian Botham and Viv Richards. He passed 1000 runs nine times in 12 seasons, and in the mid to late 1980s was one of the leading batsmen on the county circuit. In an era when England tried and discarded countless players, Roebuck was unlucky not to be given a chance.
He captained Somerset in the mid 1980s and in that time came the bitter dressing-room row which polarised the dressing-room and members and led to the sacking of Richards and Joel Garner and the subsequent departure of Botham. The feud with the latter continues to this day”.
Among the early tributes to Roebuck, mostly penned before his native England woke up this Sunday morning :
“My God. Just heard about Peter Roebuck. Loved working with him. Incisive. Erudite. Funny,” said former England bowler and BBC correspondent Jonathan Agnew.
John Stern, former editor of The Wisden Cricketer, said: “Shocking and sad news about Peter Roebuck. One of the two or three best writers on cricket in the world.”
Lawrence Booth, editor of the Wisden Almanack said: “Cricket has lost one hell of an intellect and a bloke who cared deeply about the game. I always read Peter Roebuck with complete admiration.”
In his own autobiography “Sometimes I Forgot To Laugh” , Roebuck quoted his father as saying: “In orthodox spheres Peter might be regarded as odd, whereas he is merely obscure and oblique. He is an unconventional loner, with an independent outlook on life, an irreverent sense of humour and sometimes a withering tongue.”
Perhaps his best remembered column, for the “Sydney Morning Herald” , will be this one when he called for the head of Australian captain Rick Ponting in 2008 after the disastrous Test match against India. By then Roebuck was a naturalised Australian: -
“RICKY PONTING must be sacked as captain of the Australian cricket team. If Cricket Australia cares a fig for the tattered reputation of our national team in our national sport, it will not for a moment longer tolerate the sort of arrogant and abrasive conduct seen from the captain and his senior players over the past few days. Beyond comparison it was the ugliest performance put up by an Australian side for 20 years. The only surprising part of it is that the Indians have not packed their bags and gone home. There is no justice for them in this country, nor any manners.”.
As the “Sydney Morning Herald” said : “A cricketing wordsmith without peer, journalist Peter Roebuck informs, delights, goads, stimulates, antagonises, harries and encourages his readers with polished prose that cannot be ignored.”
The World of Cricket truly is a sadder place to-day following the tragic death of this outstanding broadcaster, journalist and cricketer. Covering the Australian first innings against South Africa only hours before his tragic death, ironically Roebuck had ended what was to be his final report with these words : “A lot can happen in a week. It just did”.