I knew Peter Roebuck



I knew Peter Roebuck.  No, correction, I didn’t know Robey.  I had spent two weeks with him in the Press Box in Sri Lanka as one of a small group of Australians covering the test match series.  I grew to know most of the others in the box Conn, Maxwell, Lalor and co.  We ate together, talked together and laughed together.   Robey ate with us but could be seen on many occasions sitting by himself in a corner.  I knew he was a loner.  He did not stay for after match interviews or if he did no notes were taken.  Robey was his own man who owed allegiance to no one.  He formed his own opinions and stuck to them vigorously.  He seemed a sad lonely man and very hard to get a conversation from. Contemplation was omnipresent. Contemplating what, you might ask?

Now we know Peter Roebuck has committed suicide in South Africa ironically only 24 hours since the Australian side had done the same thing in one of Australian cricket’s lowest points.


I had met him before as we walked together down to the Adelaide Oval on the first day of an Australian  v England test. In his traditional well worn sun hat he was not hard to pick out and the other thing that stood out was that Robey was not the most eloquent of dressers.  Eloquent in speech and prose but dress – no sir!


Robey wanted change.  He always wanted change but emphasized his comments with sound reasoning and facts.  He was pilloried for wanting Ponting removed as captain as he thought “the punter” was doing a disservice to the game.  Mind you he did not want him omitted from the team only to be sacked as captain.  Ponting had too much to offer he would say.


Robey loved cricket and the form of cricket he was passionate about was the pure game – test matches.

Roebuck was cricket version of Oliver Hardy while Kerry O’Keefe was Stan Laurel

They have been the mainstays of the ABC’s special comments people for many years.  Roebuck’s wit was different and hard to get sometimes but his authorotive way of summing up the game was second to none and his desire to praise youngsters coming into teams was uplifting.  Somehow I always thought Robey would like to see more youngsters given their chance in the big time after impressive performances.

He was the most authoritve reviewer I have known after listening to over 60 years of ABC cricket.

A very ,vvery good and professional cricketer  he was good enough to captain England A and captained Somerset during  that county’s glory years that included Viv Richards, Ian Botham and Joel Garner.  Roebuck’s professionalism and team ethics were tested to the hilt by the three musketeers and no doubt was one of the reasons that he contemplated something serious in the early eighties.  He had his demons

He said in the foreword to David Frith’s book By His Own Hand  “ after a difficult season that (retirement was a way of saying good Goodbye To All That.”


Today 21 years after he wrote that foreword at his beloved Taunton in Somerset it is ironic that he also said “since 1983 I have led a stable, remarkably untroubled life, and such vicissitudes as have occurred  have been connected with cricket form rather than temperament . Apart from anything else, I keep seeing the funny side of things.  It is wise and certainly a sign of maturity, to these two things  – form and temperament- apart”

His demons , as he now know had returned one night ago in a lonely room in Capetown.


I wish I had have got to know him better but then who did really know him?


He will be missed along with his eloquence, his love of the game and that terrible straw hat.


About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.


  1. chris bracher says

    Your commentary box relationship with PR may have been fleeting but you will be the envy of many…including yours truly. Cherish the experience. CB

  2. John Kingsmill says


    Few sportswriters enter any press box
    with their intelligence intact, firing,
    ready to go. There are comedians,
    statisticians, newsbreakers, honest men

    and women doing a dull job, filing copy,
    filling the luxury of summer time
    with melodious charm, turning the dread
    of searing heat at home or the bleak

    of southern winter blight into plain room
    temperature in beds with earphones.
    Cricket was invented to placate fear, to bind
    warring hemispheres, to forge a common

    nothingness between proud sovereignties.
    Cricket is not science but it needed
    writers like Peter Roebuck, Simon Barnes
    or Gideon Haigh to crack the dusty

    veneer between sport and the finer arts.
    Now, we have lost one. This world shrinks again;
    there were few knocking at his door. We sigh,
    not so much for his loss, but for a gap

    in the outfield we don’t know how to fill.

  3. Beautiful and profound.
    Thanks John.

  4. John Kingsmill says

    Thanks, PeterB.

    Sorry. I’m not over this yet and may not be for some time.
    Forgive me, but I have another one.


    Midstream in a long chute, the moment is
    so pure, so perfect, you can’t imagine
    a hard rock appearing from the water.
    Or wings failing to expand. Or one voice

    not talking to you any more. The world
    can reinvent itself so quickly – but not
    your part in it. That comes later, if it
    comes at all. The world can have you

    for lunch in a sideways glance; it can
    have you for breakfast or dinner any time
    it wants. Time isn’t relative. It’s acute,
    like a knife; it’s flat like a pavement.

    The world is sudden, like all deaths. It’s finite,
    like Peter Roebuck’s life. I care for this man
    because not enough people did. He was loved
    by his peers, but few created enough space

    in their lives to let him fall to safety,
    to a soft catching moment of need.
    It’s not their fault, of course.
    Peter stayed alone, on his bench,

    pen over paper, attuned to his task.
    He wanted to be left alone. Finally,
    that need was met. Mountains rise
    and topple; cities flood; all species

    become extinct. Hope becomes despair
    and everything fades from red to white.
    Peter Roebuck had a handful of seconds
    when he knew, at last, what it felt like

    to be truly alone. This knowledge was useless;
    he couldn’t describe it. He could no longer
    capture the essence of a moment. Instead,
    he let the moment capture him.

    There was a policeman in his room and
    an open window. “Now I think I have
    to arrest you,” the policeman said.
    The window said nothing. It looked

    at no one. Peter walked from one
    conversation to another emptier one.
    The policeman fingered his mobile,
    reporting back to base.

    “We have a complication,” he said.

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