A conversation with Peter Roebuck

Srinivasan of the ‘Indian Voice’ in Melbourne organises a dinner around the Boxing Day Test every year featuring Peter Roebuck.

The venue is always at Indian restaurants, with names featuring ‘Punjabi’ ‘Dhaba’ ‘Masala’ ‘Curry’ and ‘takeaway’ in the usual permutations. The chef cum proprietor is routinely guilty 0f the interior decor, with a propensity for sequinned works featuring bearded grandees a-loll against bolsters receiving intoxicants from surahi bearing maidens with impossibly imposing implants. What looks very like a lungi on the wall with Taj Mahals all over it may well be my philistine eye not recognising a wall hanging when I see one.

None of this should take away from the menu which rarely deviates from Naan, dal makhani, mixed veg curry, papad and rice. For those of a certain persuasion, there a couple of other curries featuring body parts of young quadrupeds and bipeds.

The Roebuck dinner is an event I rarely miss, affording as it does the opportunity to fill up to the back teeth at the buffet for 10 bucks,  listen to one of the most engaging writers and fluent talkers about the game.

Sadly this time around the numbers were’nt there at all. Maybe something to do with the fact that it was Pakistan and not India playing Oz? Sanjay Manjrekar is perhaps right after all. Maybe most Indians are just interested in Indian cricket.

Nevertheless it made for a relatively committed gathering that welcomed Peter at about half past seven. The usual format was for everyone to hoe into the buffet, at the conclusion of which Srini would introduce Peter, who would then hold forth for a bit, followed by questions from the floor. Srini would then wind up with a present of a kurta (Peter’s favourite garment whilst in India) and invitations to contribute to Peter’s favourite charity.

Peter is one, one suspects, who will talk cricket through the night if given the chance. Here then, are a few excerpts.

On his castigation of Chris Gayle before the Windies toured and subsequent approbation.

Most readers will recall that Peter had blasted Gayle for his stance apropos Test Cricket prior to landing on these shores.

Peter said he consistently states his mind with the facts at hand. If that meant that he changed his views and opinions from time to time, so be it. So long as the process was consistent, the end results could well change. Certainly, once Gayle demonstrated some responsible leadership in Oz, Peter did not see his commitment to Tests as an issue any more.

On Umar Akmal blasting Peter Siddle for 19 in one over.

High praise from Peter who was reminded of a young Sachin who hit perfectly good deliveries breathtakingly well. The crucial thing that separated the ‘Nadamaadum Deivam’ (my phrase, not Peter’s) from Umar was the latter’s ‘youthful impetuosity’ that caused him to throw away his wicket after he reached 51. What struck him about Sachin back then, reminisced Peter was that, even at 19, he had a ‘calm centre’ within him that ensured that he was hitting the ball amazingly well on its merits, not just with youthful abandon.

On the ever so slight improvement in the provincial nature of cricket writing in the Australian press.

This was a topic that delved into areas outside of cricket such as an evolving national image, an improved understanding of the wider world and apropos cricket, soul searching post Kumble 2007. That said, what I understood him to mean was that the hacks are, person for person, more deserving of credit than is given them. For the most part, they tend to be aligned to either the Fairfax or the News Ltd stables, each of which caters to a certain demographic. Articles are then written to suit.

This reminded me of Suketu Mehta’s take on Bollywood film directors. ‘None of them are remotely the idiots that their movies would lead you to believe’. Or words to that effect.

On India being on top of the Test Totem pole.

Contrary to the jingoism and triumphalism that might be expected, we the discerning audience took the view that India’s reign would be short lived. Largely because the fab four were on the way out, our bowling still does not inspire, the much beloved BCCI still operates as a fiefdom dispensing benevolence and largesse etc etc. Without disagreeing, he also pointed out that India could not have reached the top without Australia, SAF and to an extent England stumbling periodically. In defence of the BCCI he pointed out the fact that state level cricketers could now make a decent living from the game. ‘Fathers who, fifteen years ago were doing all they could to dissuade their boys are now pushing them with the same force into the game!’

One eyed Indians.

He didn’t hold back in chiding Indians for seeing conspiracies and bloc politics whenever anything went against India or Bucknor did us in again. A pretty thin skinned and one eyed mob we were, said he. Hard to disagree, especially if you share my opinion that we conveniently lose sight of when we benefit , as we did with SK Bansal in that 2001 epic in Kolkata.

As an aside, has anyone heard of Bansal after that game?

And so it went, till Srini had to reluctantly call stumps. As we trooped out into the warm night though, we were all in agreement that we had NOT got our hard earned’s worth.

For, there was no ‘gulab jamun’ to finish off.


25 responses to “A conversation with Peter Roebuck

  1. Jason Whittingham

    You deserved what you got from this parasite and chemilion!
    He left my beloved England in a huff because he wasn’t selected for England–let alone captain the side a la Mike Brearley–unhappy that Ian Botham–fellow Somerset chap got the nod. These days, lives in Sydney–could be a Citizen of Oz too. Not sure if he was an Englishman in the first instance!!
    Don’t forget the court case involving slapping a black kid from Rhodesia or somewhere near that country–merely because the kid thought differently .

    Save your money next year and give it to Badrinath retirement fund !!

  2. Oh, I say, Jason.

    The difficult bit about being in the public eye is the danger of being remembered for old controversies as opposed to the stellar deeds of the present.

    That does not, for me and I am sure, the bulk of the admirers of Peter’s writing, detract from the quality of his prose.

    Someone somewhere said that after Wodehouse, Roebuck was the most admired English writer in India.

    While that is debatable, one of the many excellent turns of phrases he employed that I’ll never forget was to do with the then Yousuf Youhana (now Md Yousuf).

    On a plane journey in Pakistan, Youhana mentioned to Peter that he was only the fifth ever Christian to play for Pakistan.

    “A higher number than does one imagine, have played for Australia” was Peter’s memorable quip and not so subtle put-down of Aussie religiosity!

  3. Anil Kumble Rocks!

  4. Angelo Mathews and Thissara Perera are the two new shining stars in the Sri Lankan team – both brilliant all rounders coming from the same school – St Joseph’s College in Colombo.
    They are callled the JOSEPHIAN MAFIA and their coach Harsha de Silva called the GODFATHER of the JOSEPHIAN MAFIA.

  5. This is really great post. I love watching cricket

  6. It is very nice blog for all indian cricket fans.

  7. Very gud blog .Keep updating the blog.

  8. nice informative site for clicket lovers.. keep up the good work

  9. great post .. Cricket is religion in India and we all r part of it 🙂

  10. cricket is a passion, we all love it. But our teams performance is a big concern.

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  12. cricket is a religion in India, we all just love it and cant hear anything negative about it.

  13. Cricket is my passion and i wish i can play cricket for my country…….

  14. Hi all,

    This is really very interesting post. I love to watch cricket and specially India and Pakistan rivalry on field. Thanks for sharing.


  15. i am good player of cricket and love watch cricket..i also love team inida..
    really nice post thanks for sharing…

  16. Peter Roebuck had an extended conversation with him between deliveries during play about the central tenets of Islam, and Fazeer’s opinions on Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism around the world.

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  18. I love cricket ,so keep updating cricket latest information and news….

  19. Nice article .Plz update some more cricket conversations as im great fan of cricket.

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