'Alas, the dismayed will continue to take their lives for it is all more fragile than it appears' - PETER ROEBUCK IN 2004
The normal pressures (and pleasures) of life may in fact have, after all, taken the toll on Peter Roebuck
In the character assessment of Peter Roebuck, his father had said ‘His prickly response to challenge is promoted by a personality that is tough and austere and responsive neither to bribe nor threats. Since he does not seek reward or bother to avoid punishment the normal pressures of life do not affect him. Accordingly he can strike as hard and often as he wants without fear since he is beyond the range of normal weaponry.'
Peter obviously liked this assessment and he may have found this the most apt description of what he stood for, for him to have included this as the last piece in his autobiography.
Over the last fortnight, a large percentage of the media (and they have been accused of having played a silent role in his life outside of cricket) have chosen to stick to his cricketing skills ignoring what his other side may have been, though almost everyone have slated him as a complex person and as one who did not necessarily disclose his personal side of life and his preferences.
The few that have taken the contrary view have gone the other extreme of bringing out the darker not too pleasant side of Peter Roebuck and almost positioning him as a criminal.
A read through of the chapter on Trial and Tribulation in his autobiography throws up a few questions, answers to which, in hindsight, would have helped clarify some of the doubts that may still linger in the minds of many.
1. A young man (whose mother had earlier asked Peter Roebuck to assist her son and he had not come back to her as promised) committed suicide by gassing himself at 3am. He says he took a vow that day never to go half way.
2. He says that ‘K’ along with a few other visitors played for a club run by Botham’s closest friend. If Peter never wanted to talk to Botham again after the late 1980s, why would he have wanted/allowed his wards to play for a Botham (related) team?
3. He says he gave an unfit boy a few whacks with a stick ( and he was not embarrassed to write ‘from a bunch of sticks’) for not having been able to run in the snow ( the contention is that he got a written consent from them to get whacked).
4. In another case, he talks about a hysterical girl and a likeable boyfriend arguing loudly long into the night…He says that it never occurred to him that his treatment of their cousin was the topic of the conversation- A loud argument in his house late into the night and he leads us to believe that he did not venture to check what it was about
5. Even more surprising is the point where he says he suddenly woke up at 3am the next morning as it struck him that the bedrooms were not tidier and that the other inmates may have left. Yes they had left him and the house was empty
6. In the next episode, he says that one of his students (who wanted to return to him) had left him to stay with Botham’s 2nd closest friend in town for the ‘time being’.
7. He says he had never run away from anything or anyone and adds ‘ least of all youngsters who had run up huge phone bills by calling sex lines’- If he was the strict disciplinarian who wanted his wards to succeed or perish, why did he allow them to make sex calls from his phone lines!!!
8. He had graduated in Law and also had great proficiency in the ‘Language’ ( English) that almost every story over the past fortnight has credited him with…however he says he let pass an answer ( in the Interpol questioning) he gave as ‘yes’ that was recorded as ‘yeah’ without raising that as an issue, though he later acknowledges that as a mistake.
9. He talks about some of those complainants being back in Taunton and about one of them being bitter about the campaign against him (Peter Roebuck). He also talks about a Somerset player urging one of his students to lodge a complaint against him. He does not name either of them.
10. He says most former students had refused to answer questions from the Interpol. Why did they refuse to answer questions on Peter Roebuck if he was almost a father figure to them. Again, in hindsight,he says that may have been a mistake ( for them not to answer any questions)
11. In another reference, he says his house was an alternative to the feebleness of the prevailing youth culture.
12. After he was charged, he says he did not read the complaints and that now and then he did try to read them but always felt ill after a few paragraphs. And says ‘isolated’ incidents were blown out of all proportion, without giving us an indication as to what those incidents were.
13. He says he agreed to the deal to plead guilty to the lowest form of guilt because he was tired and wanted to see his orphans in Zimbabwe while at the same time saying that he did not grasp that pleading guilty meant accepting everything in the statements made by the complainants
14. On the judgement, he says, ‘ I did not care anymore, wanting the thing to end and life to resume.’ In another context, he says ' Mistakes have been made and one or two people have been hurt, but I like to think ' the good has outweighed the bad'.
He sums up saying ‘as a private person, it was the intrusion I hated most of all.’ And that he stood by his overall record with young people.
His tail piece in his book : ' With a bit of luck I will continue writing about the game and broadcasting for the ABC for another 20years.'Unfortunately, it seemed he had only a bit of the ' bit of luck' that he was looking.
But what saddened me the most in his death was that, in the moment of truth, it seemed that his father’s assessment of Peter Roebuck, did not seem to stand the test of time - ‘His prickly response to challenge is promoted by a personality that is tough and austere and responsive neither to bribe nor threats. Since he does not seek reward or bother to avoid punishment, the normal pressures of life do not affect him.’
Peter Roebuck once said 'Alas, the dismayed will continue to take their lives for it is all more fragile than it appears'. Years after that comment, it seemed to take his own and showed he may have been lot more fragile than he appeared to the world at large.
Finally, the normal pressures ( and pleasures) of life may have,after all, taken the toll on Peter Roebuck though I would like to sincerely hope not.