Home / Sports / Cricket News /  Dean Jones never yielded an inch

On the third evening of the Test match at Chennai in 1986, I knocked on Dean Jones’s hotel room. It hadn’t been easy to convince the Australia team management, but after badgering them for a day and more, the permission was given, as long as the interview didn’t go beyond 15 minutes.

For most of the first two days of the match, Jones had been in the middle, playing out an innings of great courage and character. In the life-sapping heat and humidity of Chennai, even those sitting in the shaded confines of the press box were swiftly dehydrated, so the plight of those on the field could only be imagined.

In between frequent bouts of vomiting, taking medicines and constantly consuming fluids to replenish the water and salt content in his body, he played some exquisite strokes (27 fours and 2 sixes embellished his knock) and ran like a hare between the wickets.

At one stage, he crumbled, out of breath and energy and thought of retiring back to the pavilion, only to be severely admonished by his captain Allan Border, batting alongside. “If I wanted a weakling, I would not have picked you," was Border’s warning; Jones related when I asked him of the exchange between them.

He was in his hotel bed, having spent the previous night in hospital, put on a drip, and strict medical attention to prevent anything untoward. Jones was okay by then, and in fact rather smug that he had become the toast of the world. What motivated him to play out for such a long time despite suffering so much?

“I didn’t want to leave even an inch for anyone to replace me in this side. This double century will help," Jones replied with a wink and then went on to rattle names of his competitors in Australian cricket looking to wear the baggy green.

Jones’s classic 210 in the celebrated Tied Test in 1986 was the springboard for Australian cricket to emerge from a longish period in the doldrums. A year later, Border and his merry band pulled off a stunning win over favourites England in the World Cup final at Kolkata.

A Test average of 46+ is impressive in any era, especially the one in which he played with so many high-quality fast bowlers around. But the best accolades were reserved for his batting in ODIs. Jones was aggressive, a wonderful improviser, and his running between the wickets had fielders looking like slow coaches.

In his heyday, he was among the three most dangerous ODI batsmen, the other two being Viv Richards and Javed Miandad. Jones did not have Richards’ swag or power but had the same urge to dominate the bowling. He also had Miandad’s temerity and street-smartness.

In 2007, we reconnected when he became part of the Indian Cricket League (ICL) started by media magnate Subhash Chandra. A shared passion for golf had made Jones Kapil Dev’s buddy. Kapil was the face of ICL and had roped in Jones.

We often met during the ICL tournament. Jones was candid. “Everybody recognizes me in India even now," he said one day over dinner. “I love the people and the passion for cricket here. And the money is good."

In fact, it was highly lucrative. Shrewdly assessing the flavour that works with Indian audiences, Jones became the argumentative pundit, debate-raiser as well as the solution provider. For NDTV, he assumed the role of Professor Deano, a persona that stuck with him till the end.

He hit a brief trough when he was “caught" by the mike referring to Hashim Amla as a “terrorist". It was said in jest but was insensitive all the same. Jones asked for forgiveness from Hashim and the Amla family and was soon back in the box.

The last 5-6 years saw his influence grow in Asia, and not just India. In Pakistan, he did commentary as well as mentor teams for the PSL, and he also played a big role in supporting the rise of cricket in Afghanistan.

We last spoke at length in 2015-16 in Adelaide, during the first day-night Test. We were staying in the same hotel and would meet at breakfast every morning. I asked Jones one day how he summed up his life as a cricketer. “I could play a bit; I can talk a lot. Hopefully, that leaves something for posterity to remember me by," he said.

Dean Jones, RIP.

In his heydays, Jones was among the three most dangerous ODI batsmen.
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In his heydays, Jones was among the three most dangerous ODI batsmen.
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