I once saw Peter Roebuck, the ex-Somerset cricket captain who yesterday committed suicide. He was pacing up and down outside the pavilion while the pitch dried out, deep in thought, consuming a brooding cigarette. An analytical, introspective loner, he was no stranger to melancholy and controversy. The title of his first book, ‘It Never Rains — A Cricketer’s Lot’ tells you something about his emotional disposition.
The day I saw him Ian Botham was still a Somerset player. (When Roebuck got rid of Joel Garner and Viv Richards because he reckoned them over the hill, Botham decamped in fury to Worcestershire.) I remember sitting watching a damp afternoon’s play. Botham square cut a ball to the boundary with such effortless power that it dematerialised as he hit it and rematerialised a second later as it crashed into the boundary board. It was as sweet a shot as I have ever seen.
Cricket has a very high suicide rate in the UK, double the national average. In South Africa the rate is even higher. Cricketers are the only sportsmen so afflicted.
But suicide is not a problem in the women’s game. And it is pretty much unknown in non-Anglo Saxon countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies. Do you know why?
There’s a very good tribute to Roebuck by team mate Vic Marks in the Guardian here.