Dean Jones - Brilliant Batsman, Effervescent Character
Professor Dean, popular and affable
To a later generation of cricket followers he was the popular and affable Professor Deano who gave a succinct analysis of a match, the teams and the players and also became well known as the commentator with the friendly and cheerful voice, an effervescent character with a laugh and a joke never far away.
But Dean Jones’ chief claim to fame will always be that of a highly successful Australian batsman who along with the quartet of David Boon, Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor played a leading role in Australia’s resurgence in the late eighties and early nineties.
A naturally attacking player who loved to hit the ball hard and high and handsomely Jones had it all – an ideal temperament, the technique to play high quality fast or spin bowling and the stamina and the concentration to play a long innings. His impressive stats – 3631 runs from 52 Tests at an average of 46.55 with eleven hundreds – do give some idea as to how successful he was but they fail to convey the joy he brought to the art of batsmanship while being always on the attack. He could even put away a good ball to the boundary so good was his eye and so sound his reflexes.
Jones brought these qualities to the limited overs game where he was a pioneer when it came to playing the innovative shots. Hitting balls pitched outside the off stump repeatedly on the on side, coming down the track to counter the fast bowlers and running frenetically between the wickets and converting singles into twos, Jones understood what it took to be successful in ODIs. He emerged as one of the stars of the unexpected World Cup triumph in the Indian sub continent in 1987 and had a notable record in the 1992 World Cup too. With a tally of 6068 runs from 164 ODIs at an average of 44.61 with seven hundreds and as many as 46 half centuries and a highest score of 145 Jones was the most successful Australian batsman of his time.
Jones’ feats include his highest Test score of 216 made against the fearsome quartet of Courtney Walsh, Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose and Patrick Patterson in 1988-89 and a century in each innings against Pakistan a year later the attack including Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed. But his name will forever be associated first and foremost with his heroic 210 in the tied Test at Madras (now Chennai) in September 1986.
September is known in the southern metropolis as ''second summer’’ but on those five days of the match the conditions were simply unbearable. The heat and humidity was something else with sweat flowing copiously from the brow and water being taken by the bucketful. If that was the scene in the stands and the press box imagine what batting, bowling and fielding would have meant in the cauldron that was the MA Chidambaram stadium.
And yet in this sweltering atmosphere with the sun beating down mercilessly Jones stuck it out for 503 minutes to score 210 off 330 balls. It required guts to stick it out there for such a long period, to keep getting runs at a regular rate, to keep hitting boundaries (there were 27 fours and two sixes in his knock). In the enervating conditions he continued to display deep concentration and loads of stamina to bat on and on and on. It certainly was not smooth sailing. More than once he was overcome by nausea and bouts of cramps, he was dehydrated and even retched at the side of the crease. But not once did it occur to the 25-year-old from Victoria, playing in only his third Test to retire.
Jones had come in on the first morning when Australia had lost their first wicket (Geoff Marsh) at 48. He played a supporting role to David Boon who was out shortly before stumps for 122. Jones was batting with 56 at the end of the first day with Australia 211 for two. It was on the following day that his batting really shone under the sun. Taking all the interruptions in his stride he blazed forth with an array of breath taking strokes dominating the third wicket partnership with night watchman Ray Bright and the fourth wicket partnership of 178 runs with his captain Allan Border who went on to get 106.
Goaded on by his skipper Jones hung on till he was fourth out at 460. His 210 was his maiden three-figure knock in Tests, is the highest by an Australian in India and the highest by a visiting batsman at Chepauk. Totally exhausted after his marathon innings Jones required hospitalization for saline treatment. It is futile to look beyond his unforgettable innings as his Himalayan achievement for it was the apotheosis of courage in trying circumstances.