Almanac (Cricket) Obituary: Dean Jones – remembering a showman who laid the platform.

Cricket is a game enjoyed by patient and adoring people. When a passionate player bursts onto the scene with a fearless thirst to attack, the game spreads, seeping into the hearts of part-time watchers in the summer.

 

Australian cricket has been blessed with some of these figures. In the past 20-30 years the golden age gave us plenty; Warne, Gilchrist, Warner, just to name a few. Players who make you sit up straighter in your plastic MCG seat and pay attention when they assume centre stage. But before this influx of talent there were hard-working assailants scrapping for respect against the almighty West Indies team of the 1980s. There was Allan Border, his tenacity. With him, there was Dean Jones; a fierce competitor who broke the mould of dour, defensive Australian batsmen. Jones was different.

 

He’ll go down best as changing the way one-day cricket is played. The Victorian had a penchant for flair; his brave decision to constantly charge down the wicket to pace bowlers set the tone for the practices Ben Stokes and other attacking batsmen produce in the modern day. Back then, he was doing it to Ambrose, Walsh, Marshall and Garner. He bolted for quick singles, then turned them into hasty twos. He shone in the outfield, barrelling towards ground balls. Constantly hunting for the athletic catch or superb run-out. It was no wonder he turned into a poster boy for Australian children.

 

But it would be problematic not to respect the other sides of Dean Jones’ game. He wasn’t just a pyjama-wearing one-day specialist. He was no hit or miss slogger. Jones, for a fair stretch of time, sat as Border’s right-hand man in a side desperately seeking revival. The pair got Australia’s notoriously flimsy batting line up through the harsh ‘80s, and lay down the smooth marble floor for the Waughs, the Pontings and the Taylors to stride across with confidence.

 

Jones was known as a strong personality, one endearing to fans and many, but also forceful to others. It was this will that saw him through in Madras, where he defied India for over 500 minutes in 50-degree conditions to eke out 210. He would lose eight kilos and require a saline drip to rehydrate him, but his monster innings meant the Aussies avoided defeat in the 1986 tied test. It was his first test century, one earnt like no other.

 

It may have been the highlight of his test career, but Jones was no one-hit wonder. His brutal cut shot and dainty footwork gave him ten more test tons, and left him with an average just passing 46 when he was forced out in 1992 after 52 matches.

 

Jones came into the Australian fold after the Chappells. He was in the unfortunate generation of Australian cricket history that fell into the cracks of two strong eras. His arrival in 1984 against the West Indies was desperately required, yet his importance in the 1987 World Cup win and the 1989 away Ashes victory couldn’t keep him in the Australian side in ’92. By then, young names who would go on to feature heavily in historical records were working their way into the national squad, and the experienced Jones was left behind.

 

There’s no shame in that; in fact, Border and Jones will always hold a special spot in Australian hearts due to the way they fought tooth and nail for every run and win in the 1980s. If we didn’t have Jones, would Messrs Langer, Hayden, Bevan, Ponting, Clarke and Gilchrist have all been captivated in their youth to pick up a bat and discover their talent? It’s a question that may never be answered, but it’s worthwhile to respect the impact Jones and his era had on our cricket history.

 

Dean Jones isn’t just an Australian; he’s a Victorian, and that holds him in different esteem. Being a Victorian who is loved enough to receive endearing support in front of MCG crowds is rarefied air. Just ask Merv Hughes and Shane Warne. Jones was one of the beloved Bushrangers; his flair on the national stage and his passion for exciting audiences meant he was never going to be cast aside by his home state. When you couple this with his hard work (he was Victoria’s leading first class run scorer up until Brad Hodge passed him in 2008), Dean Jones resembled the dedicated and tenacious side of every Victorian who aspired to play cricket at the highest level, but sadly didn’t possess the talent.

 

He then went on to gift many up-and-comers with knowledge. Coaching and commentating seemed the right fit for a smiling astute ex-cricketer. Fire and brimstone set his eyes ablaze when he found the competitive edge, waddling to the crease gnawing away at his gum and asking Ambrose to remove the wristbands. In modern times, success turned this confident approach to arrogance. Back in the ‘80s, this was the swagger our country needed. Jones wouldn’t back down, and neither should any of us.

 

This is what Jones is remembered for. It’s what makes his death so profoundly upsetting. It casts minds back to a time where cricket was brutally tough. A time where those who witnessed it look back and smile. Because they know what spawned from it, and are grateful for having gone through the long wicketless days and the batting collapses. In those dark days, the ones who stand out have an edge to them that can’t be replicated by dominance. They are homely, treasured. Dean Jones is certainly treasured.

 

 

Read more from Sean Mortell HERE.

 

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Comments

  1. Great summary of the Jones boy Sean .

    Interesting that Deano rated a 48 against a formidable West Indies attack as his greatest Test dig.

    I loved watching him when he got in, and unlike many, I quite enjoyed his forthright views on cricket. They always seemed to come from a place of thought and not just reaction.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Fine piece, Sean!

    To me, Dean Jones was synonymous with the expression “cricketing talent” – and he gave so much pleasure to those who were fortunate enough to see him in full flight. In many ways, he was 1980s cricket to me. It’s no surprise that I felt I felt such a sharp pang when I heard of his passing – and it’s also entirely understandable that he affected so many in the international cricketing world. I’ve just read fine words about him from such luminaries as Tendulkar and Kohli, for example.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Sean, you’ve summed Deano up very well. What an impact he had. What a loss he is.

  4. Well said, Sean.

  5. Good on you Sean.

    His fielding was something special.
    To me it showed effort and care and competitiveness. It was very obvious how the approach of one fielder could make a difference. Not only to the batting side, but to the rest of the fielding side.

    Thanks.

  6. Chris Bracher says

    Deano: “We loved you ‘cos you were Victorian”

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