Peter Roebuck 1956-2011 November 12, 2011

Peter Roebuck dies aged 55

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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vk6848 on November 15, 2011, 5:04 GMT

    May His Soul Rest in Peace

  • Somerset-Richard on November 14, 2011, 9:45 GMT

    For a couple of sound reasons Peter Roebuck hadn't been terribly popular around Somerset in recent years. However, he was a cricketer of some repute and skill but it was with his skill as a writer that he had few peers. Forgive the possible crassness of this statement but I would put Peter Roebucks written word of cricket up there alongside John Arlotts spoken word. It was THAT good. Cricket seems to attract its' fair share of tortured souls among its' players and former players. It seems as though Peter Roebuck may have been another one. It's good how so many people who worked alongside him as a broadcaster and journalist have written and spoken so warmly of the man. RIP Peter Roebuck.

  • dummy4fb on November 14, 2011, 9:23 GMT

    I wish the police come out and tell the public what really happened then they could understand why he resorted to taking his own life

  • dummy4fb on November 14, 2011, 8:19 GMT

    My deepest condolances with his close ones. It is a huge loss to the world of cricketing journalism, a hole not to be plugged anytime soon. At a time when people like me have been complaining about over nationalistic English writers, Roebuck was a breath of fresh air. My mornings will now always be less fulfilling without his articles in the Hindu and cricinfo. Peter, RIP!

  • thebarmyarmy on November 14, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Lets see what more comes out. Still early days. Hopefully it wasnt suicide and he was pushed. Sad day, I was listening to him commentate on Friday only to hear about this news the next day. I wonder what the police wanted?

  • RajivNaik on November 14, 2011, 6:31 GMT

    Absolutely stunned to hear the news. Peter Roebuck was amongst the most respected cricket commentators for me. His insight and depth of research on anything he wrote was unusual. This added to his crisp yet eloquent style of expression made him a pleasure to read. The cricket world will be poorer without him. May he RIP.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on November 14, 2011, 5:07 GMT

    A person commits suicide only when he sees absolutely no point in continuing one's life or when one can no longer face society as a result of one's actions. It is sad that events had to come to such a pass, especially with somebody who wrote so well and inspired many through his writings on cricket and cricket affairs. That said, people do have a professional persona which can be quite different from their public persona which can even be different from their private persona. While it's easy to sit in judgement of people, it must be remembered that a person is the composite of all 3 personae. Nevertheless, Roebuck's passing away is cricket's loss.

  • Meety on November 14, 2011, 2:59 GMT

    Great journo - some pieces he wrote annoyed the crap out of me, others I was in complete agreement with. The common thread was - like him or loathe him, the articles were always well written & thought provoking. Cricket articles will forever now be a little bit less entertaining - sad.

  • AnjiReddy on November 14, 2011, 2:24 GMT

    very sad to hear the news...i liked his impartial comments on the game...his impartiality was best known when he commented on the role of ponting during sydney test against india in jan 2008...his latest article on australian cricket was really something great...if it was really a suicide, i feel sorry for this great soul..may his soul rest in peace.

  • dummy4fb on November 14, 2011, 2:06 GMT

    Woke up this Sunday only to find this sad news...I just finished reading some of the articles on SMH describing Peter Roebucks's life -- one of them aptly said Roebuck was a supremely intelligent man, someone who in a traditional way of life, could have been a Professor of English literature, a high court judge or just about anyone else. I've played a bit of club cricket in my younger days while trying to finish up a doctorate in a foreign land and since then been in regular job, starting a family etc and in between catching up Test cricket mostly through PeterR's articles. May he rest in peace. A very nice guy, a very intelligent human, a true cricket-phile who understood its nuances like no one else, a thoughtful and humane person...farerwell. -vivek

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