It was a great shock on Sunday morning to hear the news that Peter Roebuck had been found dead at his hotel in South Africa. While the manner and reason behind his demise was still mired in question, it did not detract from the fact that the game of cricket had lost one of its finest writers and observers.
will be said of his modest yet effective career as a first-class
cricketer, captaining Somerset for a number of years and also being
named as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1988, an achievement
of the highest standing.
it is his career as a journalist and writer that has delighted,
informed and inspired so many people around the world. It is in this
capacity that he has been to me a ‘mentor by correspondence’.
are so many cricket journalists reporting for so many types of
publications throughout Australia and the world. Most of these
journalists, either through their own personality or ego, or the demands
of their publication, write sensationalistic copy, which in the main
focuses on the negative aspects of results or incidents. They look for
the headline, seize it, and run with it until it is beyond dead. They
will jump on a few words in a fifteen minute interview, and turn it into
a story where no story exists, just to dredge up an old story that has
long been buried. Anyone who recently saw Simon Katich’s interview after
scoring a century in the Shield match will see this hypocrisy. He spoke
of New South Wales cricket, of his determination to succeed this
season, his return to bowling, and other such things. His throw-away
line that he did not expect to play cricket again for Australia under
the current regime took up less than five seconds of this interview, but
it was ONLY this part that then made the headlines by the media. It was
a joke, and a disgrace, one exacerbated by Cricket Australia who have
since deemed it fit that Katich fronts them to explain his ‘actions’.
Once again, the media creates a story when, in reality, none existed,
and it is to their eternal disgrace and discredit that they continue to
spent most weekends through the late 1980’s and early 1990’s reading the
columns of Peter Roebuck and John Benaud in the Sunday newspapers. In
the days before the internet, before pay-tv, where there was limited
television exposure of any cricket that wasn’t Test or International one
day cricket within Australia, their incisive words of intellect were a
breath of fresh air. They cut through the hype of the mainstream cricket
media, able to balance both sides of any argument, and offered an
informative insight into the cricket being played both on and off the
was so inspiring about Roebuck’s writing was his unbiased attitude to
all his articles. He was not nationalistic. He was an Englishman who
played his cricket for an English county, he lived in Australia and
South Africa, and worked in both these countries, and could have called
them home, yet he never betrayed any bias in his articles to his
feelings in this regard.
did not mean that he wasn’t forthright in his opinions when required. In
2008 his article, which his editor deemed fit to place on the front
page of his newspaper, called for the sacking of Australian captain
Ricky Ponting after the Test against India at the SCG, which had a
number of nasty incidents, not the least being the confrontation between
Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Harbhajan Singh. He was constant and
vigilant in his calls for the cricket world to embrace the Zimbabwe
nation, to root out the evil that surrounded it and to save the nation's
cricket, rather than condemn it to oblivion. He was also quite clear in
pointing out that Michael Clarke had to make a choice between his
relationship with Lara Bingle or cricket, as his off-field saga sapped
at his performance on the field.
with everyone in life, I did not always agree with his positions or
conclusions. However, unlike so many other writers, I always came away
from having read his articles feeling as though I had learned something
about cricket, or found myself questioning my own beliefs on an issue
through his thought provoking words.
love of both writing and cricket had blossomed long before I first read
any of Roebuck’s articles. Both had possibly even reached an obsessive
stage by the time his first articles began appearing in Australian
desire as a teenager to become a journalist extended to applying for
many cadetships at many newspapers, and even studying for a year at
Mitchell College in Sydney. By my mid twenties I had been completely
turned off the profession, mostly by the fact that serious journalism
turned its back on reporting facts, and instead making sensationalism
its key phrase. The search for the headline became its goal, and losing
the basis of what journalism is - the reporting on events, not creating
them to sell newspapers or advertising slots on TV programs.
My love for cricket never waned, even as my own shortcomings as a cricketer became glaringly obvious.
spoke earlier of how Peter Roebuck became my ‘mentor by correspondence’.
What I meant by that is simple. His writing inspired me to become more
observant as a cricket watcher, to study the game and the players in a
way I may never have done without reading his articles. He also inspired
me to give something back to cricket in my own backyard. I began to
write the cricket articles for our Club for the Kiama Independent, first
for two years before moving away to Sydney, and then again for three
years on my return five years later. In the present day, he has been one
of my inspirations when it comes to doing the write-ups for our Grade
cricket teams each week on our website. He is one of the people behind
my decision to attempt the rudimentary Club history I have been dabbling
with for the past two years. His writings, his witticisms, and his
journalistic integrity have been the things that have inspired me to
perform a modest reproduction on and off for twenty years on a much
smaller scale, and with a much small readership.
matter what may come out in the following days of the reasons why he
took his own life on Saturday, world cricket has lost one of its
greatest orators, and it is with profound sadness that I greeted this
news. One wonders if we will ever be able to replace him.