Despite the suddenness, sorrow and deficiency that Dean Jones’ demise left the world with, one realizes that there could hardly have been a better farewell for the Australian cricket legend. Dean Jones died doing what he did best – analyzing cricket – and in the land that had turned the Melbourne brat into a cricketing wunderkind 34 years back.
T20 cricket, today, is nothing more than a controlled execution of the flair and bravado that Dean Jones played with, two decades back. The daredevil batting, witty usage of the crease width, dexterity to hit one-handed six over fine leg, jolting runs between the wickets, attempting the forbidden reverse sweep during a crunch 1987 World Cup – Dean Jones had done it all in the 20th century what is considered “cool” today.
In fact, AB de Villiers might not have basked in the moniker of “Mr. 360”, had Dean Jones’ era had the internet. Quite ironically, Dean Jones’ pioneering batting prowess and combative temperament for white-ball cricket first came to fore during a Test match against India in Chennai, back in 1986.
Dean Jones’ swaggered approach to cricket, with his chewing gum carrying Viv Richards’ arrogance, had divided opinions. But, if your male ego can help you survive Madras’ 50-degree heat, 503 minutes of play, 330 deliveries, loss of eight kilograms and one trip to the hospital and fetch you an immortalizing double century, why would you ever want to shed it? A 25-year-old Dean Jones had achieved it only in his third Test match and it remains the highest score by an Australian cricketer even today.
While nature was his biggest foe during his first double century, Dean Jones’ highest Test score of 216 came against ‘Man’ – the fearsome four-pronged West Indies bowling attack of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Patrick Patterson in Adelaide in 1989.
Dean Jones’ single-minded desire to succeed at all cost had allowed him to challenge some of the fiercest captains of his era. After his double ton against Viv Richards’ West Indies side, Dean Jones had challenged Imran Khan next. Touring Australia a year later, Imran Khan had the luxury of young speedsters Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis hurling missiles at batsmen on the greasy Australian pitch, which had both pace and bounce. However, while that intimidated most of his Australian teammates, Dean Jones remained unfazed. After playing a classy innings of 116 in the first innings, he would come back to score another ton – this time 136 – against the petrifying bowling attack.
While Test matches reflected his grit, Dean Jones’ quick-thinking brain and ruthless tactics had emerged in the ODIs. His ability to get under the skin of his opponents and stealing doubles from a singles stroke are all an integral part of T20 cricket today.
In a career laden with surreal limited-overs centuries, Dean Jones’ best ODI ton came in 1990 against England at the Gabba. As if he knew his time was soon going to be up, Dean Jones’ seventh and last ODI ton had seen the cricketer possessed by greatness. Dean Jones had scored 145 off 136 balls in a blistering innings that had 12 boundaries and four sixes.
Dean Jones retired in 1994 tallying 3631 runs in Test cricket, which had 11 centuries, and 6068 runs in ODIs. He had soon taken to commentary and was seen analyzing the game in various TV shows across the world. Having a transparent eyeball meant Dean Jones could dissect a cricket match like no other and he was soon named “Professor Deano”, which later became his Twitter handle.
Dean Jones’ death could not have come in more unfortunate circumstances. With the world desperate to leave behind a tragedy as big as the World Wars, Dean Jones is unlikely to get the farewell he always deserved. But one doubts if his cavalier soul ever wanted that. Dean Jones had once said, “If you fall off a horse, the best thing is to get back on as soon as possible.”
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