Vale Peter Roebuck – an outstanding writer and a friend

Peter Roebuck

By Kersi Meher-Homji

I still can’t believe that Peter Roebuck, my favourite cricket writer and a good friend, is no more. To die at a relatively young age of 55 is sad but to commit suicide by throwing oneself from the sixth floor of his hotel is too tragic for words.

Many hours have elapsed since hearing this news but still I am in a state of shock. Especially because he was a friend I used to exchange pleasantries and banters with at the Sydney Cricket Ground press box.

And I am not the only one to mourn him. Jonathan Agnew, England’s former Test cricketer and now a cricket writer, tweeted, “My God, just heard about Peter Roebuck. Loved working with him. [He was] incisive, erudite and funny.”

The shock was more profound because I heard the news minutes after I read his article in yesterday’s The Sun-Herald. The last paragraph of his final article appears eerie in view of the tragedy that happened a few hours later in the Southern Sun Hotel Newlands in Cape Town. To quote the last para of his story,

“Mind you, a lot can happen in a week. It just did.”

Yes, in retrospect it just did.

Enough has been written on Peter Roebuck, the Somerset batsman who hit 33 centuries and 93 fifties besides taking 72 wickets and 162 catches in his first-class career spanning from 1974 to 1991, the classy writer of many analytical columns and books and an enigmatic person.

He was Master of Law from Cambridge University.

A charitable person he did a lot for the unprivileged children in Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan and elsewhere through his work with the LBW Trust.

To quote Spiro Zavos from The Roar website, “Quite simply, he [Roebuck] was the best writer about cricket of his generation. His articles were invariably gems of essays, full of insight, humour and compassion for the trials and tribulations of the players at all levels of the game.”

Peter’s sudden and traumatic end is being investigated by the police in Cape Town.

 

I would like to share with you readers some of the humorous and personal encounters Peter and I shared in the SCG press box. He teased me about my love of eating samosas during tea breaks in a Test.

In the Foreword to my book Heroes of 100 Tests, he wrote, “Kersi never forgets that cricket is a story about the humanity of the players, their mighty achievements and their numerous flaws. He tells their stories with kindliness and sensitivity which he forgets only when news breaks in the Sydney press box that the samosas are on the way!”

When I sent him a picture of him holding a plate full of samosas, he e-mailed me back saying, “Kersi, you are a naughty genius/mad man! Peter”.

We had that sort of relation, joking and counter-joking.

 

Here are my two favourite quotes from the word artist Peter Roebuck in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“His [Sachin Tendulkar’s] breathtaking assault on a furious Pakistan attack brought thousands to their feet; waving, chanting and roaring themselves hoarse. Tendulkar was blistering and monumental, ruthlessly attacking off both feet and on both sides of the wicket… the stocky Indian icon is the greatest player and the best batsman to appear since the war.”

 

And now to the best of Peter Roebuck:

 

“In [Wasim] Akram’s hands a ball does not so much talk as sing. With a flick of the wrist and an arm that flashes past his ears like a thought through a child’s brain he pushes the ball across the batsmen and makes it dip back wickedly late. Akram’s career has been not so much a career as a merry-go-round… A compelling figure, he has the grin of a playboy, the face of a gangster and the powers of a cricketing genius.”

 

Peter Roebuck was himself a compelling figure – forceful and balanced.

During the Harbhajan Singh – Andrew Symonds – Ricky Ponting feud in the controversial 2008 Sydney Test, Roebuck was the only journalist from Australia to take India’s side.

He may have had an alleged unpleasant side to his character but his good points far outweigh his disturbed side. He was a brilliantly articulate writer who called an axe an axe.

 

He spiced his columns and commentaries on ABC radio with humorous metaphors. My favourite metaphor was during the series against West Indies and Pakistan in 2009-10 when Shane Watson and Simon Katich kept getting out in the nervous 90s. And Peter wrote in SMH, “The Aussie batsmen look as likely to survive the 90s as the Spice Girls”.

 

The press boxes around the cricketing world will not look the same without him and his straw hat. May his soul rest in peace!

Short URL: https://indiandownunder.com.au/?p=1015

Posted by on Nov 14 2011. Filed under Featured, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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