Renowned cricket writer Roebuck commits suicide

Updated: Nov 13, 2011, 14:45 PM IST

Cape Town: Widely respected cricket writer Peter Roebuck, who has considerable following in India, committed suicide here after police reportedly questioned him on allegations of sexual assault.

The 55-year-old British national, who captained Somerset in the 1980s, was in this country to cover the current series between South Africa and Australia.

According to the Western Cape South Africa police, the incident occurred last night around 9:15 pm local time. The writer died on impact.

There were reports that Roebuck had been spoken to by the police last night after which he appeared to be tense.

It was not clear why Roebuck had taken the extreme step but the police said, there were no suspicious circumstances, surrounding his death.

However international media reports say that he jumped from his hotel room on the sixth floor even as a uniformed police officer was still present there.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald, a newspaper in which Roebuck's columns appeared regularly, said a detective and a uniformed police officer from the sexual crimes unit began speaking with him in his hotel room about 9pm.

Roebuck then sought help from a fellow cricket journalist by saying, 'Can you come down to my room quickly? I've got a problem'

Cape Town police captain Frederick van Wyk refused comment when asked if Roebuck was questioned about a sexual assault but 'Herald Sun' quoted a source as saying that police did question the cricket commentator about such allegations.

"The police came to his room and wanted to speak to him. I'm told he was being questioned for sexual assault," the source told Herald Sun, another Australian newspaper.

Known for his strong opinion, Roebuck who also wrote for Indian publication 'The Hindu' had demanded the sacking of former Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting after fractious Sydney Test match against India in January 2008.

That match was marred by the racial abuse incident involving India's off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds.

He had blasted the Australian team by calling it a "pack of wild dogs" for their behaviour in that Test.

He wrote, "If Cricket Australia cares a fig for the tattered reputation of our national team in our national sport, it will not for a moment longer tolerate the sort of arrogance and abrasive conduct seen from the captain and his senior players over the past few days."

"In the past few days, the Australian captain has presided over a performance that dragged the game into the pits. He turned a group of professional cricketers into a pack of wild dogs. As much can be told from the conduct of his closest allies in the team."

Symonds had alleged that Harbhajan had called him "monkey" but the Indian had denied it.

Initially Harbhajan was found guilty of hurling the racial taunt and was banned for three Tests but later the charges were withdrawn on an appeal and the Indian was fined 50 percent of his match fee for using 'obscene language'.

Roebuck was here to cover the Australia-South Africa series as a radio commentator for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He also used to write for Australia's Fairfax newspapers.

No sooner the news of his death came out, tributes started to pour in.

"Peter was a wonderful writer who was the bard of summer for cricket-loving Australians. He was also an extraordinary bloke who will be sorely missed," the Herald's sport managing editor, Ian Fuge said.

Craig Norenbergs, head of the ABC's Grandstand sports programme, added, "Incredibly sad news. He was an integral part of the Grandstand commentary team and apart from being a magnificent print journalist.

"For us he could describe a game of cricket in such a way that even if you didn't like the game, you liked the way that he went about his business."

Roebuck's fellow commentator in ABC Radio, Kerry O'Keeffe described him as a "bookworm who loved the game".

"Nobody analysed the game better, nobody cut to the chase more succinctly, and nobody saw where the game was going better," O'Keeffe said

"Cricket consumed him and he played it with great distinction, and then turned to writing and commentary, and he was the No. 1 seed."

Indian batting great Rahul Dravid said he was a keen follower of Roebuck because of his unique writing style.

"He was a fantastic writer cum commentator, one of the best in this generation. He was someone who was very opinionated, but was very independent.

"I looked forward to reading what he wrote about but more importantly how he wrote it. He had this incredible ability to use words to make the game of cricket and the players come alive. It was also wonderful that he loved India and coming to India," Dravid said.

Former Australia captain and fellow commentator Ian Chappell said, "We didn't talk so much about the game, more about things around the game. Like corruption and things like Zimbabwe, which he felt pretty strongly about. I enjoyed reading his stuff, at times I read it and didn't get the point, so he wasn't exactly Bill O'Reilly, but he was a damn good writer, a colourful writer and he brought other things in life into it."

Cricket Australia also mourned the death of Roebuck.

"He bought particular insight to his commentary based on his lengthy experience as a first-class cricketer and captain, and combined that with a singular flair for the written and spoken word. He spoke his mind frankly and while one didn't necessarily always have to agree, you always respected what he had to say," CA CEO James Sutherland said.

PTI