A Lot on His Mind (Peter Roebuck, 1956-2011)

Unlike many of the people, such as Peter English, who have been writing so well about their memories of Peter Roebuck, I didn't know him.

But then the impression you're left with after reading the tributes that have followed his tragic death last night is that nobody really did.

I saw him around a lot, though.

My earliest memories of Roebuck come from his days as one of the younger members of the great Somerset sides of the late seventies and early eighties. A man of intellectual gifts, if not great cricketing ones, he could never have been expected to exert a major influence in a team that contained Viv Richards, Ian Botham and Joel Garner. But he was always there, striding rapidly, purposefully, across the field with the air of someone with a lot on his mind, and making his fair share of runs in a style that was functional and effective, if rarely visually pleasing.

This went on for years. As captain he survived the fallout which followed the club's decision to release Richards and Garner in 1986, and then did his best to shore up a team that wasn't what it was. In those days he really did have a lot on his mind.

After he left Somerset and began captaining Devon, he made runs, took wickets and drove his players with a hardness and focus which was foreign to the minor county game. The result was a number of years of unprecedented success, the legacy of which persists to this day.

My chief memories of long days spent watching Roebuck's Devon by the sea at Sidmouth, Exmouth and Instow are of a transparently and unashamedly driven man, often fielding in unusual positions as he sought the tactical key to unlock victory, while occasionally breaking out of his carapace to lambast his players for any percieved lack of intensity or to bowl a few overs of strangely penetrative slow-medium, regularly taking wickets through sheer desire.

In an environment in which it was fashionable to drift along, he really, really cared, and he took others along for the ride. A lot of those players, waking up today around here in Devon, in south-east Wales, and in Sheffield, will be grateful that they had the chance.

In those days I also often saw him striding around the Taunton boundary on sunny midweek days. Rarely still for long, usually leaving behind an oblique comment, he gave the overwhelming impression of someone who inhabited a slightly different, more remote, place than the rest of us. This is probably why I never quite summoned the courage to speak to him.

Probably the fullest expression of Roebuck's love of cricket came on the page. Slices of Cricket, It Never Rains... and Tangled Up in White are among the finest written evocations of late twentieth century cricket from the standpoint of someone who had been both a participant and a shrewd, knowing observer.

All people ever said about Roebuck was that he was hard to fathom and that he could be difficult to get on with.

I don't know, but, when it came to cricket, he really cared.

1 comment:

tamilnetonline said...

Peter Roebuck committed suicide in South Africa while on duty covering the South Africa- Australia cricket series.

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