Monday, 28 November 2011

Book Review - Sometimes I forgot to Laugh by Peter Roebuck

Sometimes I forgot to laugh by Peter Roebuck

Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2004   ISBN 1741143896

Peter Roebuck's recent untimely demise reinforces the impression that, while no man is an island, many men have secret parts hidden deep within themselves that never see the light.

Roebuck was best known in Australia as a sometimes philosophical, sometimes acerbic cricket commentator and writer. He also had a long and sometimes turbulent career as a batsman and captain in English cricket who was, at his peak, touted as a possible selection for the English team.

Sometimes I forgot to laugh is Roebuck's attempt at autobiography, and while there are few insights into what was a strange and at times lonely character, there is also much good writing about the game of cricket, and some of the great figures of the game Roebuck had the fortune to play with and against.

I have to admit I only read this book because Roebuck had died in such mysterious circumstances (leaping from his hotel window after been questioned by S. African Police over an alleged sexual assault), but it is one of the better cricket auto/biographies I have read.

Roebuck is an insightful judge of other people, and his descriptions of Viv Richards, Joel Garner, and Ian Botham, with whom he shared success at Somerset, is intriguing, and adds to the corpus of knowledge of these three great champions of the game. He provides insights into the early careers of other great players as well, such as Martin Crowe of New Zealand, and Steve Waugh and Allan Border of Australia.

Roebuck goes into some detail about the "Somerset affair", when, as Captain, he supported the Board in the axing of Richards and Garner from the County, to be followed by Botham leaving in disgust. This naturally tore the County apart - Roebuck was in an invidious position, but handled himself as well as he could given the situation.

As for insight's into Roebuck's life, there aren't too many. Given this is a cricket autobiography, that may be par-for-the-course (to use an inappropriate sporting metaphor). The title of the book probably says something about the man, as well as his admission to being a repressed cricketer, eliminating errors from his game in an attempt to avoid embarrassment and ridicule, which was obviously something he could not cope with - he writes in the book "Was this a mistake? Could things have turned out otherwise?". He failed to provide answers to those questions in the book, and perhaps in his life. He will be missed.

Sometimes I forgot to laugh is no longer in print - try your local library or second-hand bookshop.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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