Former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck has been found dead at a hotel in Cape Town. He was 55.
Opening batsman Roebuck played for Somerset from 1974-1991, scoring 1,000 runs in a season on nine occasions.
After retiring, he became a respected writer and broadcaster in Australia renowned for his strong opinions.
South African police said Roebuck had taken his own life and have launched an investigation into the full circumstances surrounding his death.
Captain Frederick van Wyk of Cape Town Police said: "An incident occurred last night at about 9.15pm at a hotel in Claremont where a 55-year-old British citizen, who worked as an Australian commentator, committed suicide."
The Sydney Morning Herald, who Roebuck had written for since 1984, reported that he fell to his death from a hotel window after being questioned by police.
Roebuck, whose straw hat made him instantly recognisable in the press box, had been working for the Herald and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in South Africa. He also wrote for The Age and the Cricinfo website.
Numerous cricket personalities took to Twitter to leave their tributes to Roebuck.
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew tweeted: "My God. Just heard about Peter Roebuck. Loved working with him. Incisive. Erudite. Funny. Don't know the full story."
Former England captain and now commentator Tony Greig wrote: "The death of Peter Roebuck leaves the grass less green and cricket without its most effective investigative journalist."
Another former England cricketer turned journalist Derek Pringle reflected: "Peter Roebuck was a tortured, driven soul, but his suicide still comes as a shock. Cricket has lost its most erudite idealist."
ABC's Craig Norenbergs described the news of Roebuck's passing as "incredibly sad".
He added: "He was an integral part of the [ABC] Grandstand commentary team, 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."
In a statement released by Cricket Australia, the governing body's chief executive officer James Sutherland paid tribute to Roebuck.
"Peter was a familiar face around Australian cricket who had been with the team only hours before his sudden death," he said.
"He bought particular insight to his commentary based on his lengthy experience as a first-class cricketer and captain, and combined that with a singular flair for the written and spoken word.
"He spoke his mind frankly and while one didn't necessarily always have to agree, you always respected what he had to say."
Guy Lavender, the chief executive of Somerset CCC, said: "We extend our sincere condolences to all Peter's family and friends."
Roebuck made his Somerset debut at Weston-super-Mare in August 1974, going on to make 335 first-class appearances for the county and scoring 17,558 runs at an average of 37.27. He was named as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1988.
His tenure as captain was overshadowed by a spectacular fallout with his predecessor, Sir Ian Botham.
In 1986, Roebuck sanctioned the replacement of West Indian greats Sir Vivian Richards and Joel Garner with New Zealander Martin Crowe, an act for which Botham never forgave him, leaving for Worcestershire shortly afterwards.
Roebuck was succeeded as Somerset skipper by BBC Test Match Special's Vic Marks in 1989.
In his Guardian column, Marks observed that his former team-mate "revelled in the no‑nonsense climate of Australia, while feeling undervalued in England. In reality, he had many admirers in the English press-box, but he was slow to recognise that. By the last Ashes series, when he said 'we are struggling at the moment', he was referring to Australia. As a writer and broadcaster he was forthright and fiercely independent - and envied by just about everyone in the business."
Roebuck retired from first-class cricket in 1991 but went on to captain Devon between 1993-1999 and 2001-2002. He led the county to an unprecedented four successive Minor Counties Championship titles between 1994-97.
At Taunton Crown Court in 2001, Roebuck pleaded guilty to assaulting three 19-year-old South African cricketers who had been staying at his home. He was given a four-month suspended jail sentence.