RIP Deano: The cricket maverick who never grew up

 

Some cricketers grow old quickly - others seem trapped in their boyhood until the day they leave us.

There was a part of Dean Jones that never aged - the cricket junkie with a million theories, a man whose love of the game was as rich the day he died as it was when he first surged onto the Australian cricket scene as a fearless, debonair new talent in the early 1980s.

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Dean Jones was one of cricket’s great thinkers. Picture: Chris Cole/Allsport
Dean Jones was one of cricket’s great thinkers. Picture: Chris Cole/Allsport

 

The last time I spoke to him before he left for the Indian Premier League he chatted with typical restless energy about a couple of pet theories such as why he thought Travis Head should leave the comfort of South Australia and venture into the lions den of NSW to toughen him up.

It was typical Deano … left-field, controversial, unlikely to happen but, the more you thought about it, the more you got his point.

When coaching T20 cricket teams in Asia he spent hours researching statistics that showed teams that won the 17th over of a T20 match normally won the game so he would tell his team "you must win that over.''

Again, quintessential Deano … anything but the obvious, a man who kept us all thinking.

The cricket world is shattered today for it has lost one of its greatest characters, a totally original maverick talent whose contribution went far beyond mere statistics - however excellent they were.

 

Dean Jones in the commentary box with then-Prime Minister John Howard.
Dean Jones in the commentary box with then-Prime Minister John Howard.

 

 

The hustle and bustle he brought into 50 over cricket in the 1980s dignified and electrified the entire game.

Just watching him walk to the wicket with that super cool strut was enough for some fans but like a lot of swaggers they hid deeper insecurities.

Cricket was a brutal game for players like Jones who came through in the mid-1980s when Australia went four years without winning a series.

He rarely spoke about it publicly but some of the dressing downs he received from senior players in the early Test sides he played in left scars which never truly healed.

He loved Allan Border but he fell out with others. He admitted he might have needed to be brought down a peg or two but in his early years but not as savagely as he was.

Later in life he would occasionally tell stories about himself and poke fun at his own insecurities.

 

One of the many times Jones raised the bat for state and country.
One of the many times Jones raised the bat for state and country.

 

Like the time, when computer analysis was just coming into the game in the 1990s, and he saw Queensland coach John Buchanan had left a tape saying "Victoria's batsmen'' near the Gabba indoor nets.

"I couldn't help myself,'' he said with a grin.

"I swiped the tape, hid it in my bag, and took it back to the hotel and watched it.

"They correctly identified I could not play the cover drive so they planned to bait me outside off stump.

"I was filthy so the next day I went five hours not driving at one ball outside off stump to teach them a lesson.

'They cracked in the end. I loved it.''

Matthew Hayden, watching from gully, loved the contrariness of it all and said watching Jones starve himself of cover drives was a pivotal moment in his own career because it taught him what strong willed cricket was all about.

 

Jones shakes hands with fellow cricket legend Steve Waugh.
Jones shakes hands with fellow cricket legend Steve Waugh.

 

Jones averaged 46.55 in Tests - an exceptional effort given he played in such a turbulent era and never felt comfortable or truly supported.

For all the impact of his jaunty swagger, Deano was a man who craved to be loved and he rarely felt that way.

He was hurt that while he was a coach in demand in overseas T20 competitions there was no-one knocking on his door in Australia.

 

 

The absolute golden stud of his career was his 210 in the Tied Test against India in Madras in humidity so thick that the keys on the typewriters of Australian journalists writing about it were punching through wet pages which were moistened by the air density.

Most of those who were there still swear it has to rank as the greatest Test innings by an Australian. It seemed every time Australia played a future Test in that city any player who sweated their way to any score above 50 would return to the dressing room and say "Dean Jones must have been a freak.''

That treasured double century will be remembered for as long as the game is played … just like the man who played it.

 

 

Originally published as RIP Deano: The cricket maverick who never grew up



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