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Peter, we’ll remember the good we knew

By Peter FitzSimons, 19 November 2011. 

Peter Roebuck caricature by John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare

AND when the days grow cold, and we grow old, what then will we say of Peter Roebuck? Most obviously that he was a very fine writer, and that the manner of his death was an unspeakable, unfathomable tragedy.

But what of the man himself? Most of the commentary this week from those who worked most closely with him has had the common theme that while they knew him well, there remained some sides of his life they simply didn’t know at all. I am the same. For, yes, there was a deeply private side of Peter that few, if any, of his long-time friends were allowed into.

That was his right. And, no, I don’t understand what the whole decidedly odd corporal punishment thing with the three 19-year-old cricketers in 2001 was all about, but it was dealt with by the law at the time and it was not as if it was part of a series of scandals. Rather, it was the single blemish on a publicly blemish-free life, right up until the staggering sexual assault allegations from a 26-year-old Zimbabwean man that emerged just before he took his life on Saturday night.

What I do know is that even in death a man is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and in the case of Roebuck – who did so much demonstrable good in the world, including educating and housing 40 young African men over the years without a single one raising an allegation against him – the likelihood of that innocence is all the greater.

Again, let us let the law take its course without descending into grubby slurs, including the most outrageous one of all, that Fairfax and the ABC were aware that their principal cricket commentator was a danger to shipping, and ignored it. That, for starters, really is a complete nonsense. Vale, Peter. We will remember you.

Meanwhile? Meanwhile, renowned cricket author Kersi Meher-Homji offers the following as his favourite bit of Roebuckian prose:

“In Wasim Akram’s hands a ball does not so much talk as sing. With a flick of the wrist and an arm that flashes past his ears like a thought through a child’s brain he pushes the ball across the batsmen and makes it dip back wickedly late. His career has been not so much a career as a merry-go-round … A compelling figure, he has the grin of a playboy, the face of a gangster and the powers of a cricketing genius.”

What they said

Steve Waugh on Peter Roebuck: “He was never afraid to tackle the big issues in world cricket, and would often be a lone voice if he believed strongly in the cause. As a captain I would always be keen to read Peter’s take on the previous day’s play.”

Peter FitzSimons on Peter Roebuck: RIP Peter Roebuck. 1956-2011. The greatest cricket correspondent of his generation and a friend to many at the ABC and Fairfax as well as cricketing communities around the world, ended his life amid terrible circumstances last Saturday night in Cape Town. Vale Peter.

This article was written for The Sydney Morning Herald.