The news of Peter Roebuck’s death yesterday came as quite a shock to me and the cricketing world in general. Normally, disturbing news such as this about celebrities – if ex-cricketers and journalists can be termed as such – would not come as a surprise since, in some ways, you are prepared for it. (Case In Point: The news of Amy Winehouse’s death was not a shock as much as it was an inevitability.) But, as I was perusing Cricinfo yesterday during my daily routine, the headline bearing the above news caught me by surprise; I literally had my hands over my mouth as I was reading the article on his suicide.
Ever since the news broke out yesterday, eulogies have been pouring out at large from the cricketing community. From Peter English’s deeply heartfelt to Sambit Bal’s practical but equally moving to words from famous cricket personalities, the tributes demonstrate the extent to which Peter Roebuck’s insights were appreciated. All the tributes have talked about Roebuck from a professional standpoint and what a great personality he was, but nearly every one of them has stated that they knew little about him apart from that. I found the knowledge that very little was known about Roebuck’s personal life, even to his colleagues, to be surprising. Obviously, I did not know him on any level, be it professional or personal. However, as any astute student of the game of Cricket would tell you, it is impossible to not have read Roebuck’s analyses. Any number of adjectives could be attached to them – insightful, sometimes measured, sometimes scathing, not shorn of controversy, heavily researched, and highly articulate. None of them do his writing any justice. The amount of information one could glean from them, not just about cricket, but about politics, the personality of cricketers, and other associated subjects, was practically limitless.
As a good example to show all of the above qualities, and more, I point you to the following two articles he wrote on Cricinfo after Sangakkara’s emotional yet brilliant outburst at his country’s cricketing policies: The all-around art of Sangakkara and Sri Lanka on the brink. (For more, here is his complete Cricinfo archives.) Both of them highlight what I was talking about in the previous paragraph. Many other cricket journalists – not the least of all Ian Chappell – demonstrate equal perspicacity when it comes to talking about the on-field activities, but very few could talk about off-field activities as good as Roebuck could. The research that went into his articles, his understanding of the cricketing cultures of all the different countries and especially the subcontinent nations, and his long, articulate, flowing columns certainly made him a unique voice in cricket.
Not only was his death a complete surprise, but the manner was equally shocking. For obvious reasons, the less spoken and written about it, the better. Still, the controversy that is going to inevitably surround his death means that he joins the likes of Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer; whose memories might never be left at peace.
The only thing I can say for sure is that my daily perusal of Cricinfo is going to be a lot more hollow without Roebuck’s insightful opinions to look forward to. For that reason alone, I, and one would assume the cricketing community, will definitely miss him.
R.I.P. Peter Roebuck (1956-2011)