A couple of years back, a Bangalore-based sports scribe whom I had known for nearly two decades, took his life within hours after getting his daughter married. Till date, it is a mystery as to why he committed suicide and that too on such a happy occasion. Of course, there were plenty of whispers, but of little substance. These thoughts zipped through my mind when reading about the Roebuck incident.
The point is that we all have our secrets most of which we take to our graves; but at times, they surface as in the case of Roebuck whom I have only seen once from a distance when a colleague pointed him out to me on the eve of a Test match in Chennai a few years ago; but such a pity that a writer of his stature could leave us in such tragic circumstances. For sure, we will be hearing a lot more of Roebuck’s personal life in the days to come.
Roebuck faced arrest before death: Colleague
As a writer, Roebuck was different in the sense that he refused to follow the crowd. So much so that he was one of the few whose articles I read with interest. I recall the words of my former sports editor, the late Rajan Bala, who once told me when I asked him about his legion of fans and critics: ''Listen, readers might love you or hate you, but make sure you are not ignored.'' Roebuck belonged to that rare breed of writers who spoke their minds and damn the consequences.
I wouldn't comment on all the muck that is being raked up about Roebuck's personal life, for no human is perfect or without flaws. I would rather give everyone his or her space and respect privacy. After all, we make our choices as we deem fit and Roebuck was no different. So, let him be as nothing is to be gained by pulling out skeletons. Life has no rewind button or, for that matter, fast forward or slow motion. It will be a while before we get to read another Roebuck.
What baffles me is the coyness of the South African police in clarifying the air regarding Roebuck's last moments especially in the light of revelations by another reporter who was among the last to see Roebuck alive. The shabby manner in which the South African cops have handled the incident has only led to needless speculation. Even the dead are not spared of controversy.
Talking about controversy, the revelations of ICC's former anti-corruption investigator Condon are bound to open more cans of worms. His assertions that match-fixing existed even before the Cronje scandal make for a shocking reading. It certainly puts a lot of results under scanner as we wonder whether there is any sanctity left at all in cricket.
It has been said before but bears repetition that the ICC, on its part, seems to be clueless in dealing with match-fixing. The penalty for the guilty is rather too light as in the case of the three Pakistani cricketers who were subsequently thrown into the can, and appears almost a knee-jerk reaction that does nothing to rid the game of fixing.
Having said that, it is a moot point whether corruption can be rooted out at all from not just cricket, but any other sport. Even a truly global sport like football has had its share of fixing scandals and I believe that so long as greed exists, there is no escape from corruption. It would also mean that we have to take performances at face value and leave it at that.
Match-fixing rampant in all countries: Former ICC investigator
In any case, I suspect that majority of those who throng the cricket stadia around the world get unduly exercised over match-fixing. From what one could see, scandals have not impacted match attendances per se, but if the crowds have dwindled for the five-day Tests, then it has more to do with people's priorities and lifestyle choices.
Let us admit that a five-day game is a relic of the past and while it enjoys niche following, not many have the patience or the mindset to grasp the finer points. People these days want to be entertained and so long as they are, it matters little whether the game was fixed or not. That explains the huge turnouts for a T20 bash even though the format is about fun and frolic.
I suppose then that like we do in our daily life where we put up with a lot of inconveniences and move on, cricket will continue to have its share of followers regardless of the scandals. That alone will ensure that cricket will survive and the Roebucks of the World will embellish the sport with their writings.