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That's no way to say goodbye, Peter

As BB King continues to sing, The Thrill is Gone.
 
Cricket writing has lost one of its finest practitioners in the passing of Peter Roebuck.

He was 55, found dead in Cape Town, South Africa. Too young to leave and no way to go. His suicide is utterly depressing.


Peter Roebuck at the Cricket Club of India in 2001.
PIC/MiDDAY ARCHIVES


Only on Friday, he sent us a copy of his report on Australia getting bowled out for 47 by South Africa in the Newlands Test. And his last piece that appeared in this newspaper probably was his best in terms of cricketing catastrophes. "Madness, chaos, calamity and bizarre were the sorts of words thrown about Newlands as the Australians collapsed to 9/21. A few others might be added, including inept, irresolute, reckless, feckless and foolish," was how he began.

Having captained Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Joel Garner at Somerset, he had the knowledge to come up with thoughts which only players understand to the fullest. To that, he added splendid words that would give other writers an inferiority complex and make them wonder why are they in the profession just like guitar legend Jimi Hendrix did to his fellow six-string exponents.

Roebuck was contemporary cricket's finest writer. And his weakness for going over the top at times shouldn't really chip away at this fact. Indeed, he was imperfect. Not everyone agreed with his view that Ricky Ponting should be sacked as Australia captain during the tumultuous Sydney Test against India in 2008. During that summer, whatever Roebuck wrote became news. And the Sydney Morning Herald used some of his pieces as the lead story of their editions.  

Blooper
He was human enough to be even factually wrong. One remembers hearing about Greg Chappell's annoyance when Roebuck mentioned in a magazine that Chappell opted not to tour India as a player. That wasn't true since Chappell was not picked for the 1969-70 tour and when it came to the 1979-80 one, he was part of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.

But, there were times when players, on after thought, acknowledged he was right. Once, an illustrious Australian player asked a journalist to convey his apologies to Roebuck, to which the journalist said, "do it yourself."

He was fearless and his pet topics were the crumbling of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, ICC's power games and conflict of interest. Long before Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar's television commentary contract with the BCCI came into controversial focus, he criticised their deal.

On a personal level, he was gay and a loner and appeared troubled.  He cherished his tours to India, welcoming comfort rather than opulence. On his last trip to India he preferred a Byculla hotel than the Cricket Club of India, a venue he loved though. In Bangalore, an MG Road hotel would do just fine.

Roebuck wrote straight from the heart. His seat -- the first on the second row -- at the Sydney Cricket Ground press box will not be easy to fill.

The thrill is gone.

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