Monday, November 14, 2011

Peter Roebuck- My favourite Cricket Expert Commentator

My first meeting with Peter Roebuck was in the 3rd test between India and Australia at Chepauk in Madras in 2001 when I spent two sessions with him at the ABC Commentary box. That day, after having heard him over the Radio for a decade, I listened LIVE to Peter sitting right behind him at the commentary box. I told him that he was the best modern day ‘expert’ commentator on the Radio.

(Photo above was taken by me that day... Jim Maxwell, who brought him into Radio Australia is to his left. And Mike Coward, who has this morning rated Peter Roebuck as the best ever commentator of this generation, is to his right. Harsha Bhogle who was also part of that ABC team, Glenn Mitchell, Greg Mathews and our own scorer- Mani- are also seen in the photograph)

So modest was Peter(Roebuck) that morning that he almost shut me up in that ABC box and asked me to keep it to myself and not propagate these views!!!

The first time I had listened to Peter Roebuck was in 1987 when he summed Australia’s 1987 world cup victory.

This is how he began describing AB’s victory in 1987:

“Calcutta, the former Indian capital with 12million citizens including Mother Teresa and some of the worst poverty imaginable, darted up its Eden Garden Stadium for the cricket final. 90000 Indian cricket lovers packed the ground, despite the fact that the tournament’s co- hosts, India and Pakistan - were not present……….. When asked what he would do with the prize money, Allan Border said ‘We are going to have a good time.”

Since then, for well over a decade I rarely missed his stint on Radio Australia.

Two things stand out in my memory of listening to him on the radio:

One, his strategic description of the poor captaincy of Graham Gooch during the 1992 World Cup final when Gooch released the pressure the Pakistanis were under by pushing the field back right after the first drinks break.

The other was during the 1988 Perth test match against West Indies when Tim Lane, the Radio Australia commentator was LIVE after the fall of the 9th Australian wicket ‘Ambrose will not be able to beat his previous best test haul now (Ambrose’ previous best had been 6 for 72 or some such thing and he had in this particular innings just conceded 73runs at that time for his 6wickets)…

Peter Roebuck immediately retorted that stunned Tim Lane “Not necessarily Tim. Ambrose could claim the final wicket and still achieve his best Test figures (by claiming 7 wickets in that innings).”

That was how 'spot on' he was on the game.

I read, several times, the story of his experience with the UK police on the supposed assault on his students. He thankfully got out of that after an almost two year horror phase.

But this time, it all ended in a matter of minutes, though one wonders how some one who seemed quite strong willed would take such an immediate decision. And that, in the middle of an absorbing 'Test' battle that he so often over the last one year criticised for its short series ( He was aghast at ICC planning this as just a two test series and made his displeasure known, as always, in no uncertain terms)

His suddent demise is a great loss to the radio (and to cricket readers). Just on the night of his death ( Saturday night), I was reading his description of Michael Atherton's career and the final time Athers walked on to the field.

Thanks to the collection I have of many of Peter’s gems (stints) for Radio Australia, dating back to the early 1990s, I can hopefully continue to listen to those recorded commentaries of his, though his LIVE broadcasts on the ABC will be missed as will be his reports in The Hindu.


Prabu said...

Wonderful note Prabhu. I enjoyed his writing tremendously and did listen to his commentary from time to time. Sad loss to cricket....whatever his personal demons may be...

ramblerspost said...

Yes, a great loss indeed. Roebuck belonged to a generation of journalists who understood the nuances of the game and for whom Test match cricket was the Holy Grail. I enjoyed reading his column and particularly liked his non-patronising tone while writing about the sub continent. I hope the media will respect his memory. May his soul rest in peace.