He was "Deano", "The Legend" or just "Lege" for short, but "Jonesy" to those who didn't know him so
The television graphic late on Thursday night appeared initially to be "fake news". It couldn't possibly be correct that Dean Jones had passed away. But, sadly, within a few minutes the worst was confirmed.
Dean Jones on the way to a double-century in Adelaide in 1989.Credit:Getty
His Test debut was neither planned nor prepared for, in the short term at least. I was his roommate at the Trinidad Hilton leading into the second Test at Queens Park, Port of Spain in March 1984. Deano was not named in the 12 for the Test the next morning, but he managed to wake me up about 2am suffering from significant pain, a pain that needed more than an optometrist or the physiotherapist that travelled with us.
I was sympathetic but unimpressed as a full night's sleep was essential when you have to face Garner, Marshall and Holding in short order or bowl at Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lloyd et al.
Come match time and the pitch was damp enough to grow cauliflowers and very green, which matched Steve Barry Smith's complexion. Smith was out of the side and five minutes before the toss the Jones boy was in: no baggy green ceremony; no mental preparation; no smiling press photo just a "get on with it son" from Allan Border. Deano was unfazed, took the call-up with zeal and offered to open the batting if required. Nothing much changed over the course of a wonderful career.
Dean Jones was in his element in the 50-over game.Credit:Getty Images
In 50-over cricket he set precedents in aggressive running and stroke play. And what a sight when he would discard the helmet for the baggy green or gold. He had no qualms in firing up the marauding quicks, famously and dangerously ticking off Curtly Ambrose by complaining about his white sweat band on his bowling wrist. Deano was well within his rights to do so, but Curtly's move from third to fifth gear wasn't appreciated by the following batsmen.
He was the player who galvanised the attention of fans when he came to the crease in those 160 one-dayers. You knew things were going to happen, his aggressive running varied from the near suicidal single to the challenging of an outfielder's arm when charging back for a fourth run. He lofted the ball more than most of his era with "cricket shots" rather than slogs. His County and Kookaburra bats were slivers of timber compared to the modern weapons, but his pure timing cleared infields and boundaries. He would not be dictated to by the bowlers.
His courage to take the game on was calculated and strategic, his thinking, much in the David Hookes mould, was left of the square and in the vanguard of the time. Both men had a craving for making the game better, not purely for their own benefit, but for the players and the fans.
Jones' raw statistics in red- and white-ball cricket were matched by few in the 1980s and '90s. Only Viv Richards was consistently better, and he is one of the greatest of all eras.
Deano was a top-class outfielder, who shunned the slips as a cantankerous place where fingers were bruised and broken, and therefore batting affected.
The man had a huge heart in the sense of his generosity of spirit and thought, always willing to toss in advice to cricketers of any age or ability, whenever and wherever.
Courage in sporting terms must always be put into perspective, but there are those who take on the more physical (and cricket certainly can be a physically dangerous sport) and mental challenges of the game more naturally and readily than others. Deano was one of those.
His 210 in the Madras sauna is the stuff of legend, and rightly so. The mental and physical challenges there were monumental. It is not gilding the lily to say that his life was in danger when he was rushed off to hospital on a drip.
In the contemporary game he would have been a leading T20 exponent, even throwing in his sneakily straight off-breaks, of which he was unsilently proud, especially when he would add commentary as the ball travelled towards the overconfident batsmen.
His performance was as good as his word in Madras in 1989, in another sauna, when Australia took on the West Indies and our only specialist spinner on that dust bowl, Tim May, strangely and of no visible cause collapsed down at third man during the first over and was stretchered off. The "Legend" happily, nay violently, volunteered his spin bowling services and against the mighty Windies proceeded to send down 6.5 overs of sheer slow bowling velvet, taking two wickets in one of Australia's biggest ODI wins of that time.
Dean was a confident man, yet any affectation of arrogance would be off the mark. He expressed his views and advices widely and readily, but always with a true genuineness.
His contributions to the game continued through coaching and media, never afraid to make a controversial call or guide a struggling player.
His loss is sudden and, for that, all the more saddening. When he played he gave the impression of being 10 foot tall and bulletproof. Alas, that can only be bravado. Death spares no man or woman but, at 59, surely we could have been granted a few more years of enthusiasm, unorthodoxy and plain speaking from the Legend.
Vale mate. You will be missed.
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