Dean Jones - a maverick on the field, an iconoclast in the commentary box
If there is one thing to learn from the legendary cricketer and analyst, it is this: don't take life too seriously, because the favour is never returned.
Anyone who first heard the news of the passing away of former Australian cricketer, popular commentator and analyst Dean Jones, aged 59, on September 24 could not help but feel a sense of shock.
The intensity of the shock depended on how closely one had been following Jones' career. For the ones around during the 80s and 90s, he was a maverick batsman who influenced the way ODI cricket is played today. For the younger lot, he was an extraordinary commentator who mixed zest and sharp analysis to hit his point home.
In both these innings, Dean Jones stood out, to say the least.
Jones was found unconscious in his hotel room in Mumbai, where he was a part of the commentary team for Star Sports for the Indian Premier League. He featured in a really popular show Star Sports Dugout.
Innovator. Entertainer. Professor. Icon.— ICC (@ICC) September 24, 2020
Rest in peace, Dean Jones. pic.twitter.com/aIPKUmodwk
You go on his Twitter profile and his cover photo has the logo of his show, The Dugout, in the background, with a smiling Dean Jones in the foreground. Jones was smiling, more often than he wasn't.
You scroll down a bit and you come across a reply to a tweet from a fan who was applauding his commentary for its exciting nature. Like it often happens with the sudden passing away of a person, all you can say is, 'I just saw him yesterday. He was doing well. How did this happen suddenly?' But death, just like life, has its own way.
Jones had worked on an IPL game just a day before his demise. Even on his last day, he had breakfast and attended a briefing with his colleagues after which he retired to his room, where he reportedly suffered a massive cardiac arrest. Reports also reveal that compatriot Brett Lee administered CPR to him till the medics arrived, but in vain.
Jones was successful in test cricket, but was perhaps discarded earlier than his sell-by date. He finished with 3631 test runs from 52 matches at an average of 46.55.
The knock that he will always be remembered for was his 210 against India in Madras (now Chennai) which saw an iconic tied test match. The sweltering heat of Chennai sapped all of Jones' energy and he lost several kilos during the knock, but with some persistence from skipper Allan Border, kept going till his feet were on the ground, literally. The double hundred took so much out of him that he ended up on a hospital bed, with a saline drip.
For all his achievements in test cricket, his ability really came to the fore in ODIs where he scored 6068 runs - he was among the top five run-scorers in the format at the time of his retirement - from 164 ODIs at an average of 44.61 and a strike rate of 72.56 - terrific for the era in which he played.
With Jones around, one thing was for sure, that ODI Cricket was not just a truncated version of test matches but had a dynamic nature to it. Jones could clear the boundary with ease but what he came to be more well-known for was his ability to manipulate the field. He ran like a panther between the wickets and always pushed the outfielders.
A nonconformist at heart, he did not shy away from dancing down the track to fast bowlers too. The highlights of Dean Jones' cricketing career was his role in Australia's 1987 World Cup triumph and the Ashes win in 1989.
After his playing days, Jones took his Professor Deano avatar and was equally successful, if not more, with the mic in hand. His sharp wit and analytical ability helped to break down the game for the viewers. It was aided by his lucid language, with a joke or two thrown in, which made heavy cricket analysis digestible even for the common folk.
Jones was the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1990 and was named the Member of the order of Australia in 2006. Just last year, he was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame. Apart from his commentary stints, including the one in the IPL, he also dabbled in coaching and coached Islamabad United from 2016 to 2018, taking them to the Pakistan Super League title as well.
Deano had his share of controversy. In 2006, he was part of the commentary panel for Ten Sports in a match featuring South Africa, when he referred to Hashim Amla as a 'terrorist'. Although he was not on-air at the time, Jones was rightly sacked from the panel. He apologized for his comments within hours, conceding that his remarks had been 'silly and completely insensitive'.
That said, he was always sprightly and certainly carried himself with the zest of someone younger than his years. If there is one thing to learn from the legendary cricketer and analyst, it is this: don't take life too seriously, because the favour is never returned.
© Cricket World 2020