I have been an avid armchair cricket buff for long, the fascinating duel between a fast bowler running at 100 miles an hour, hurling a ball at a man standing twenty-two yards away with a bat in his hand who is trying to hold his own is one of the most testosterone-charged sights that any sports could offer. But what I find more captivating than the sights and sounds of this wonderful game is the way it has been captured into words by the ones who write about it. Cricinfo is a premier website on cricket that not just boasts of great content but is also blessed with a wonderful team of insightful writers from all over the cricketing world. When I read about the passing away of Peter Roebuck–one of Cricinfo’s most hard-hitting and widely read writers, it left me saddened for I had lost someone who with his incisive and to-the-point articles educated me and millions of other readers about the rights and wrongs that were happening on and off the field.
Journalists are superheroes in their own rights, for with the might of their keyboards and with the gift of their intellect they have the power to change the way the world thinks. There are those who shy away from calling a spade a spade, fearing the powerful enemies they might make, and then there are those like Peter Roebuck. Honest, with a no-nonsense approach and with a genuine affection for the game that was his bread and butter, Mr. Roebuck breathed life into words going on to be one of the most celebrated sports writers. He pooh-poohed cricket's governing body and never feared in chastising those who brought disrepute to the game. After the controversial Sydney test in 2008, Peter Roebuck in a scathing article for the Sydney Morning Herald had called for the head of Ricky Ponting. For a man who always believed that nationalism should not come into play while writing about sports for it corroded your views, Mr. Roebuck wrote blunt and unbiased columns that earned him bouquets and brickbats, admirers and detesters.
Be it the ugly hood of match-fixing that when struck had poisoned the game, or the advent of the hit-and-miss format of T20 that threatened to take the life out of cricket’s ultimate Battle Royale- Test Match Cricket, or even the Zimbabwe cricket crisis, Roebuck with his articulate and a school-headmaster like tone of writing shook the souls of players, and the foundations of behemoth cricketing boards. A David who took on the might of the Goliaths of cricket with a laptop and his arsenal of words as his only weapon, Roebuck carved an image of a prophet for himself amidst cricket enthusiasts of all kind. Every time I browsed through Cricinfo or “The Hindu”–where he was often published, any article that carried Roebuck’s name beside it indulged me into opening the doors to a whole new world of insights and opinions on matters that were hotly debated in the cricketing circles. Be it the emergence of a new cricketer or the prelude to an exciting series, or an article criticizing the functioning of ICC, Roebuck’s piercing analysis served me often as a lens with which I viewed the finer details of the game.
With his untimely death under the most heartbreaking of ways – a suicide, the reasons for which are unknown, the lovers of the game have been robbed off of a brilliant and respected writer. Cricket has lost one of its sanest and stoic voices that raised issues with no fear of being diminished. He may now have retired to the pavilions of Heaven, but we shall all be thankful for Mr. Roebuck as he leaves behind his voice in those rich literatures that with every written word brings us closer to cricket.
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