Sydney: Peter Roebuck, widely respected cricket writer with a large following in India, committed suicide here by reportedly jumping from the sixth floor of a hotel in mysterious circumstances.

The 55-year-old British national, who captained Somerset in the 1980s, was in this country to cover the current series between South Africa and Australia. According to the Western Cape South Africa police, the incident occurred last night around 9:15 pm local time. The writer died on impact.

There were reports that Roebuck had been spoken to by the police last night after which he appeared to be tense. However, police declined to comment on this.

It was not clear why Roebuck had taken the extreme step but the police said, there were no suspicious circumstances, surrounding his death. Known for his strong opinion, Roebuck who wrote for 'Sydney Morning Herald' and other publications including India's 'The Hindu' had demanded the sacking of former Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting after fractious Sydney Test match against India in January 2008.

He wrote, "If Cricket Australia cares a fig for the tattered reputation of our national team in our national sport, it will not for a moment longer tolerate the sort of arrogance and abrasive conduct seen from the captain and his senior players over the past few days."

The Sydney Test was marred by the racial abuse incident involving India's off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds. Symonds had alleged that Harbhajan had called him "monkey" but the Indian had denied it.

Initially Harbajan was found guilty of racially abusing Symonds and banned for three Test matches but later the charges were withdrawn on an appeal and he was fined 50 percent of his match fee for using 'obscene language'.

Roebuck was covering the Australia-South Africa series as a radio commentator for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He also used to write for Australia's Fairfax newspapers.

The hotel, on its part, has also issued a statement, saying, "an incident that occurred at Southern Sun Newlands was currently under full police investigation."

Roebuck was born to two school teachers in Oxford on March 6, 1956, and was one of their six children. He studied law at Cambridge and played 335 first-class matches before deciding to make his career in writing about cricket.

In 335 first-class matches, Roebuck, a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1988, made 17,558 runs at 37.27, with 33 centuries. He also led an England team to defeat against Holland.

Roebuck retired from top-level cricket in 1991. No sooner the news of his death came out, tributes started to pour in.

"Peter was a wonderful writer who was the bard of summer for cricket-loving Australians. He was also an extraordinary bloke who will be sorely missed," the Herald's sport managing editor, Ian Fuge said.

Craig Norenbergs, head of the ABC's Grandstand sports programme, added, "Incredibly sad news. He was an integral part of the Grandstand commentary team and apart from being a magnificent print journalist.

"For us he could describe a game of cricket in such a way that even if you didn't like the game, you liked the way that he went about his business."

Roebuck's fellow commentator in ABC Radio, Kerry O'Keeffe described him as a "bookworm who loved the game". "Nobody analysed the game better, nobody cut to the chase more succinctly, and nobody saw where the game was going better," O'Keeffe said

"Cricket consumed him and he played it with great distinction, and then turned to writing and commentary, and he was the No. 1 seed. "It is the most devastating news for so many out there who knew that voice, so incisive - the blue print for all our cricket commentary. He rang me up nearly every week for the last 10 years to talk cricket, and every time I'd put the phone down and have a deeper view of the game after the conversation," he added.

Roebuck penned several books on cricket. His diary of the 1983 season, 'It Never Rains' established him as one of cricket's most insightful and strong voices. He also wrote  an autobiography 'Sometimes I Forgot To Laugh'. 

(Agencies)