Dean Jones, who pioneered an energetic style of ODI batting, and the hero of Australia’s tied Test against India in Chennai, died on Thursday after a heart attack in Mumbai. He was 59.
Jones, who was in India as a commentator for the IPL, is understood to have suffered a heart attack around noon IST. It is understood that Jones, who was part of the commentary panel for Wednesday’s match, had breakfast this morning and attended a pre-match briefing with his colleagues. He is believed to have returned to his room and taken ill there.
Remembered for his double-century in the famous tied Test between India and Australia in Chennai, Jones played 52 Tests and 164 ODIs. He was also part of Australia’s 1987 World Cup-winning team. He carved a career in coaching and cricket commentary after his retirement from all forms of cricket in 1997-98.
A precocious talent for Victoria, gruffly mentored by his father and Carlton Cricket Club legend Barney, Jones was introduced to the Australian side in the aftermath of Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee’s retirements at the tail end of the 1983-84 summer, and made a meritorious 48 opposite Allan Border on debut against the fiery West Indies in Trinidad.
The selectors were careful with him thereafter, not wanting him to suffer too much at the hands of the same West Indian juggernaut, and it was not until the 1986 tour of India that he gained a solid opportunity to grasp.
Informed by Border that he would be thrust into the No. 3 spot in Chennai, Jones responded with the innings of his life – 210 in enervating heat that brought him to the brink of total physical collapse, setting Australia up for a memorable tie.
He was more or less a fixture in the Test team from then until 1992, an integral part of its evolution from frequent humiliation to the cusp of global domination, peeling off another double century against Viv Richards’ tourists in Adelaide in 1989, then coshing twin tons against Pakistan at the same venue a year later.
At the same time, Jones was a pioneer in limited-overs cricket, as both a batting technician and an entertainer for vast crowds, never more so than at his beloved MCG. Somewhere along the way his Test match returns began to lose consistency, leading the selectors to make a still contentious call to leave him out of the team for the first Test against the West Indies at the Gabba in November 1992, a place he was never to regain.
Jones continued to be a vital part of the ODI set-up for another two years, but his enthusiasm for the task waned in direct correlation to the realisation that under no circumstances, not even as a reserve on the 1994 tour of South Africa, would he return to Test cricket. Jones retired, unhappily, from international cricket at the end of the tour, but in his typical jack-in-the-box style had rescinded the call by the time his memoir, My Call, was on shelves the following summer.
He continued to dominate domestic ranks for Victoria, pummeling his highest score of 324 against South Australia at the MCG in a day/night Sheffield Shield match, and was in the initial squad for the 1996 World Cup before missing the cut-back to the final group that would lose to Sri Lanka in the final.
On their return, Mark Taylor’s side faced a World XI to celebrate 150 years of the Victoria Cricket Association, and Jones was on hand to compile one of his best knocks, a defiant century on a day far more suited to bowlers than batsmen.
Before finishing up, Jones also played for Derbyshire, with one of his final acts being to miss a slips catch in an 1997 Ashes tour match that may well have caused Taylor to quit the captaincy amid his extended run of outs.
He was head coach of Pakistan Super League franchise Islamabad United from 2015 to 2019. He also served as interim head coach of the Afghanistan national team briefly in 2017.
Though much-loved and highly regarded across the commentary world, his broadcast career was not without controversy. In 2006, he referred to Hashim Amla as “the terrorist” on live television – though he was not commentating at the time, his remark was picked up by the microphone. He was immediately sacked from the commentary team and, while waiting for his flight out of Colombo, issued a statement of regret.
In a statement Earl Eddings, the Cricket Australia chairman, said: “Dean Jones was a hero to a generation of cricketers and will forever be remembered as a legend of this great game. Anyone who watched cricket in the 1980s and 1990s will fondly recall his cavalier approach at the crease and the incredible energy and passion he brought to every game he played.
“Although many remember him for his brilliance in the 50-over game, arguably Jones’ finest moment in the national team came in scorching conditions in Chennai in 1986, where his selfless and courageous innings of 210 helped Australia to a famous tie against India.
“Jones remained an immensely popular figure in Australian and Victorian cricket throughout his life and was a much-loved columnist and commentator in every corner of the cricketing world.
“This is a truly sad day. Deano’s loss will be felt not just at home in Australia, but across the globe. Our thoughts and best wishes are with his wife Jane and daughters Isabella and Phoebe.”
Australia’s current men’s head coach, Justin Langer, said: “What a great player and a great bloke. We are shocked and very sad to hear of his passing.
“Deano was a true legend of Australian sport and world cricket, one of the great players and personalities in a golden time for the game. His role in the team’s World Cup win in 1987 and the 1989 Ashes under AB were a huge turning point for Australian cricket. His double century in Madras was one of the greatest and most courageous innings of all time.
We can only hope to make Australians as proud of our team as they were of Deano. He will be missed by the game and millions of people around the world. Our love to Jane and the girls.” (ESPNCricinfo)