Renowned cricket writer Peter Roebuck was found dead at his hotel in Cape Town, where he was covering Australia’s Test series with the Proteas, his employers said on Sunday.
British-born Roebuck (55) studied law at Cambridge and played 335 first-class matches before making a career writing about the sport, quickly establishing an avid following with his forthright, intelligent prose.
He regularly commentated for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and wrote for the nation’s Fairfax newspapers. Roebuck was covering the South Africa-Australia series when he was found dead in a Newlands hotel, according to the media firms.
The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear, but the Sydney Morning Herald said he had reportedly been “spoken to by police earlier in the day” and had been seen in an “agitated state” according to the ABC.
“It is with great shock that we have learnt today that Peter Roebuck has died in Newlands, South Africa,” Fairfax chief Greg Hywood said in a statement.
“Peter was not only an extremely gifted cricket writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, he was also one of Australia’s most popular cricket commentators for the ABC,” added Hywood.
“In recent years he built a reputation as one of the best columnists on the sport.”
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland expressed shock at the death of Roebuck, a “familiar face” to the Australian cricket team, who had been with the players “only hours before his sudden death”.
“He spoke his mind frankly and while one didn’t necessarily always have to agree, you always respected what he had to say,” he added.
Craig Norenbergs, head of the ABC’s Grandstand sports programme, said it was “incredibly sad news”.
‘Magnificent print journalist’
“He was an integral part of the Grandstand commentary team, apart from being a magnificent print journalist,” Norenbergs said.
“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, a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1988, captained English county side Somerset in the 1980s and turned out regularly for Devon after retiring from top-level cricket in 1991.
He penned several books on the sport and was a sometimes polarising figure known for his strong views and admired as one of cricket’s most articulate and incisive minds.
Roebuck’s father said his son was seen as “odd” in orthodox spheres, “whereas he is merely obscure and oblique”.
“He is an unconventional loner with an independent outlook on life, an irreverent sense of humour and sometimes a withering tongue,” the elder Roebuck said in his son’s 2005 autobiography Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh.
In his diary of a season It Never Rains, Roebuck reflected on how strange it was “that cricket attracts so many insecure men”.
Roebuck filed a column published just hours before news of his death broke, urging Australia to hold their nerve following the “dumbfounding” events in the first Test against South Africa in which the visitors were shot out for just 47 in their second innings.
“The team for the first Test against New Zealand has become harder to predict,” Roebuck wrote, referring to the upcoming series.
“Mind you, a lot can happen in a week. It just did.” – AFP