Zurbo on Roebuck

I just got back from wood cutting all morning and heard the news. Terrible news. Peter Roebuck has passed away. I don’t know the whys and whens and wheres and don’t care. It is cricket’s loss and our loss as a people, that Peter is gone.

Roebuck was the best commentator and journalist I knew of, in any field. He walked that fine line. Always. That perfect line. He was incredibly knowledgeable, but never earnest. He was witty, just plain funny, yet never the buffoon. He expressed his opinion, but never imposed it as if it were fact. He never sounded like a school teacher, telling you the way it was, but never bowed if he thought he was right. When he had a point of view he never made it about him.

He knew, in minute detail, the technical side of the game, but still gave weight to its poetry and romance.

Yet, despite knowing so much, he unashamedly asked questions on air. I would love hearing him say: “Oh, oh really? I didn’t know that.” Time and again.

In this he seemed cricket’s biggest fan.

He had a wonderful turn of phrase, but never got lost in the written word. He described a game, a moment, an atmosphere, a view of a cricket oval beautifully, without resorting to the pretence of flowery language.

He was his own man, who obviously, deeply, loved and appreciated this great, everlasting game. Who, when I listened, often made me love and appreciate life.

Peter Roebuck walked these fine lines by being himself, making them appear seamless, natural, because to him they were. What for others is a balancing act, for him was strolling on common ground.

He was so British, yet in many ways, so Australian. He had no tags on himself that I could hear or read at all.

I can think of many instances, written and verbal, that were simply, definitively  Peter Roebuck. Examples of who he was and what he gave us. But the one thing I will remember most, always, be it on radio or in print, was his voice. The one that came from the man. Positive, smart, both jolly and sharp, seemingly in love with it all.


The thing I will remember most, Peter, was your tone.


  1. Beautifully said Matt

  2. Dave Goodwin says

    Thanks Matt, I really appreciated your piece – I’ve been feeling ill at ease all day since hearing the news of Peter’s death. This is a shared loss, as we’ve all been denied decades of pleasure reading his future insights. There are only a few modern day Australian cricket writers in the top bracket – Greg Baum’s good, Malcolm Knox, Gideon Haigh the best novelist – and Peter was the pre-eminent columnist. When diabolical events unfolded, as they did last week in Capetown, Peter was always the first port of call for me to help calbrate ‘Why? How?’ I met him briefly when I was in Antigua in 1999 for the 4th Test. He was staying at the same 2 star, 2 bit motel I was. He sat there at breakfast with his big hat on, solitary, digesting events. I later read this view of him in a book review of his autobiography in The Guardian by Kevin Mitchell and it rang true: “His enemies say he is a loner; but so do his many friends. (And so does he.) One of his closest friends, Kerry O’Keeffe, the former Australia Test spinner who is now an entertaining radio commentator, points out that it is Roebuck’s way to set himself apart. If you were looking for him on tour, says O’Keeffe, it was best to seek out a one-star Indian restaurant ‘and there, reading anonymously by candlelight on a table set for one, would be PM Roebuck’.” He was always generous with his insights – I remember walking up to him outside the Sophia Gardens stadium in Cardiff an hour before the start of play in the First Test, 2009; professed myself a fan and asked him what was the word about the make-up of the team (thinking Siddle or Clark as the third seamer?). He offered up that the selectors were anxious to find a way to get Watson into the team (which they didn’t achieve until the Third Test), but interestingly he didn’t write about that until after it had happened. Peter’s lonesomeness seems from a distance to suggest he was someone with not enough love in his life – yet he radiated love for the wonderful game of cricket, and he was much-loved. Finally, I commend this blog from India to all Almanackers – http://cricketnext.in.com/blogs/gauravkalra/260/62903/the-peter-i-knewonly-too-little.html

  3. John Butler says

    Well said Matt. And Dave.

  4. Andrew Else says

    From years of reading his columns, I went out and bought ‘Ulysses’. I can’t get through it but I hope I will soon. I’m just appreciative that his match analysis could point me that way.

  5. Very sad on so many fronts. I always read Roebuck’s pieces. Didn’t always agree, but always read them.

    The Ashes without the Roebuck and Johnathon Agnew banter will be weird.

    Sadly missed.

  6. Well said, Dave. Andrew, that’s fantastic. Might do the same.

  7. chris bracher says

    A wonderful tribute Matt. Thaks also for the hyperlink to gaurav kalra’s magnificent piece.
    Cricket broadcasts and newspaper analysis will never be the same.

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