What separated Australian legend Dean Jones from the cricketers he idolised growing up was the era he played in. The emergence of ODI cricket at the time demanded batsmen to switch temperaments while approaching the different formats of the game, a trait that Jones absolutely specialised in.
Born on March 24, 1961, Jones debuted in the 1980s. And like most players debuting in the 1980s, their cricketing heroes were the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Geoffrey Boycott, Greg Chappell and Sir Vivian Richards - a group of batsmen who defined Test cricket with grit, patience and fearlessness.
He debuted in the ODIs first, a format that was still played following the classic cricket grammar. Batsmen approached most deliveries with a straight bat, waiting for the ball to get old before pressing their foot on the gas pedal. Jones started off similarly but soon decided to go his own way and ended up rewriting ODI cricket-batting forever.
Whatever are the primary requirements for batting in white-ball cricket today were first exhibited by Jones’ daredevil batting of the 80s. Whether it be the intelligent use of the crease width, the insane control to blast one-handed sixes over fine leg, turning singles into doubles with quick running between the wickets, and of course, having the audacity to attempt the then-forbidden reverse sweep (as he did during a crucial 1987 World Cup game).
Many would even argue that Jones was the first Mr. 360; it's just that internet wasn’t a thing back then. It took him three years to get his first ODI ton, which came against England in 1987, but he would repeat that feat the very next day against Pakistan. Scoring consecutive tons was a rare achievement back then.
Jones’ last ODI ton would come against England in 1990 in Gabba, which is remembered as one of the finest limited-over innings. Batting first, Australia would lose David Boon early on before Jones and Geoff Marsh would forge a 175-run stand. Jones would go on to score 145 runs in 136 balls, hitting 12 fours and four sixes to make his highest ODI score ever.
However, playing scintillating ODI cricket wasn’t Jones’ only identity. He was equally good in Test cricket, a format that needed a totally different temperament. Jones would get his first Test ton in only his third match, which was a Herculean task.
Playing against India in the scorching heat of Chennai on a spinning track needed superhuman focus and intensity. Jones lasted 503 minutes at the Chepauk, faced 339 deliveries and scored a whopping 210 runs. He suffered from dehydration and was even seen vomiting during the play, but his intense desire to win kept him going. He was said to have lost eight kilograms during that innings.
Jones’ 210-run knock still remains the highest number of runs scored by an Australian on Indian soil, and this wasn’t even his best knock. He had saved his best for the best opponents in Test cricket of that era - the West Indies.
Touring Australia in 1989, Vivian Richards’ men ran through the Australian batting order in Adelaide with the fearsome bowling attack of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Patrick Patterson spitting venom. Australia were 64/2 when Jones came out to bat and he stayed on the crease for 538 minutes to score 216 runs - an innings that was laced with 16 boundaries.
The Imran Khan-led Pakistan team would tour Australia a year later with young Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis skidding and swinging the ball on the greasy Adelaide turf. And while most of his fellow batsmen succumbed to Akram’s fifer in the first innings, Jones would emerge a centurion to keep the hosts in the game.
However, that wasn’t the end of that match, as Pakistan would see Imran Khan and Akram scoring tons to put a target of 303 for the final innings. Australia needed someone to steady the innings and bat deep amidst another batting collapse. And Jones would stand up to score another century in consecutive innings to save them and tie the match.
An entire generation revered Jones for the sheer swagger with which he carried himself. The Victorian understood the game like few others, and he didn’t waste time getting into a commentator’s role post-retirement, where he enjoyed analysing the game. He passed away on September 24, 2020.
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