Peter Roebuck 1956-2011 November 12, 2011

Peter Roebuck dies aged 55

Peter Roebuck, the respected cricket commentator and columnist, has died in South Africa.

South African police have released a statement confirming that Roebuck took his own life.

"This office can confirm that an incident occurred last night at about 21.15 at a hotel in Claremont where a 55-year-old British national who worked as an Australian commentator committed suicide," the statement said. "The circumstances surrounding this incident is being conducted. An inquest docket has been opened for investigation."

Roebuck was in South Africa covering Australia's ongoing Test tour, including as a radio commentator for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). He was spoken to by local police on his return to the Southern Sun Hotel Newlands on Saturday night after he had been out to dinner.

In addition to his work in print and radio, Roebuck was also a widely read columnist for ESPNcricinfo, contributing his views in both written and audio form. His last column had expressed cautious optimism about the progress of the Australian team. Sambit Bal, editor of ESPNcricinfo, said Roebuck had always pressed the importance of avoiding nationalism in how the game should be viewed.

"He was a rare global voice in the game," he said. "He used to say that there was too much nationalism in cricket writing. His writing was devoid of any allegiance to nation, team or any player. I cherished his friendship and counsel."

Roebuck was born in Oxford on March 6, 1956, the son of two schoolteachers and one of six children. He was an accomplished batsman for Somerset and went on to captain the county to success in the 1980s. He also led an England team against Netherlands.

In 335 first-class matches, Roebuck made 17,558 runs at 37.27, with 33 centuries. His playing career was overshadowed to some degree by a drawn-out feud with other Somerset players, which led to the removal of Joel Garner and Viv Richards, and the exit of Ian Botham.

As Roebuck's cricket developed, so did his writing. It Never Rains, his journal of the 1983 season, established him as one of cricket's most insightful voices, and he would go on to write numerous other books, including an account of England's Ashes success in Australia in 1986-87.

Roebuck chose to leave England eleven years ago after being involved in a controversial court case. In 1999, he was accused of caning three teenage South African cricketers who had stayed with him in his house near Taunton, Somerset. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to three charges of common assault at Taunton Crown Court, and was given a suspended sentence of four months for each count, the sentences suspended for two years. At the time, he had said, ''Obviously I misjudged the mood and that was my mistake and my responsibility, and I accept that."

After leaving England, Roebuck divided his time between residences in Sydney, Australia and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Australia had played a growing part in Roebuck's life from the early 1990s; he had spent summers there, teaching and playing cricket, then graduating to writing and commentating, before establishing one of his two homes there a decade ago.

Roebuck's columns were fiercely independent, often expressing the contrarian view but at other times articulating the thoughts of many. His views were never more hotly-debated than when the Herald ran a front-page opinion piece in which Roebuck called for the sacking of Ricky Ponting as Australia captain following the acrimonious 2008 SCG Test against India.

He was outspoken on numerous topics, not least the degeneration of Zimbabwe cricket, and was also a frequent questioner of the game's administrators and money-men. He wrote critically of the influence of betting, both legal and illegal, within the game, and warned against the proliferation of cricket without meaning or context.

Brydon Coverdale and Daniel Brettig are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfo; Firdose Moonda is South Africa correspondent

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