Peter Roebuck was a brilliant captain. Probably the best I played with. He was not conventional and would have been horrified to have been described as such. His idea of a warm up revolved around ‘off you go then and do what you have to’, while his ability to hover at breakfast and cast an eye over those entering and then to make an assumption of the length of time they had been out the previous night was legendary.
But so was his knowledge of the game.
He could often sum up a pitch within a few deliveries. In one match on a dead surface in Wiltshire he persisted with the usual 3 slips and a gully for approximately four balls before dismissing all the close fielders bar one to various areas of the field. Sure enough, no runs were scored in the next six overs and the lone slip took the catches.
He could also lose his cool resulting in some bizarre outbursts. After a series of misfields by a newcomer, who had partaken a little too heavily the previous night, the unfortunate was summoned to bowl. This would have been fine if the gentleman had ever bowled in a match but, unfortunately, he had not. This did not deter a steaming Roebuck, who waved his protests away and then asked all the fielders to move to the offside. Needless to say his first ball was a legside full toss that disappeared much to the delight of the whole side, who delayed the next ball whilst they recovered from their laughter.
He could also see the funny side. On playing for the first time in Bournemouth I found myself at the front of the queue of cars leaving the hotel car park. With no idea where I was going I trusted luck and turned right and started driving. Five miles later I was on a country lane when I pulled into a layby, followed by six other cars. As I got out smiling bravely about this ridiculous situation, Roebuck sat there in the car behind me laughing about the fact everyone had followed someone who had no clue where the ground was, even though they all did.
His Devon days also showed the class he still had as a player. Bowling endless overs where batsmen couldn’t score against him or tearing through sides when there was something in the wicket were the norm. So were his feats with the bat where he could take a game over if his mind was set, particularly against opponents who had annoyed him in previous contests.
He enjoyed his time with Devon. He acknowledged that often. After his career had ended with Somerset there is no doubt that he enjoyed going back to the basics of the game where he could play without fear of censure. No professional contracts nor end of season recriminations. Simply good cricket with some talented players and a beer at the end of the day.
At a match in Cheshire one day, he was becoming increasingly frustrated at the inability of the people operating the sightscreen to move it without delaying the game. Over after over saw some sort of holdup until Roebuck stopped the game and started walking towards the culprits. The two youngsters got to their feet to try to plead their innocence, when he shouted: ‘I’m not quite sure what’s going on down there, but just remember that they managed to put a man on the moon didn’t they? Hurry up can you’
That was Peter Roebuck!