Gavaskar: Deano was one of a kind

Dean Jones pulled a prank on me when we were team-mates in the Rest of the World team in 1987. It engendered greater team spirit that the senior-most member of the side could have his leg pulled and no offence was taken.

Dean Jones was my team-mate in the Rest of the World team that played the MCC bicentenary Test match way back in 1987. Those three weeks, where we had players from Australia, the West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand and India, were some of the most enjoyable weeks I have spent as a cricketer.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

The year 2020 continues to be a horrid one with more dear ones leaving us. Hardly a month after the sad passing away of my opening partner Chetan Chauhan came the shocking news of Dean Jones’s sudden death while he was in Mumbai to cover the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Star India. Just like Chetan was a fitness fanatic, so was Deano, and in fact the word is that he used to run in the corridor of the floor that he had been put up in as part of the commentators’ bubble.

Deano was my team-mate in the Rest of the World (RoW) team that played the Marylebourne Cricket Club (MCC) bicentenary Test match way back in 1987. The RoW team was in England for three weeks to play a few first-class games in preparation for the bicentennial Test. Those three weeks, where we had players from Australia — Allan Border was captain — the West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand and India, were some of the most enjoyable weeks I have spent as a cricketer. Different cricketing cultures, different approaches, different languages and accents, but it was so much fun. It pretty much was what the IPL teams are now, where players from different countries play for the same franchise.

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Deano didn’t play in the main game of the bicentenary Test, but he was a terrific team man who with his impish practical jokes kept the group in high spirits. He and Desmond Haynes were the ones who kept us laughing all the time, with another prankster, Javed Miandad, also coming up with a few gems of his own.

There was one prank that Deano played on me at Manchester’s Old Trafford ground that I remember fondly. We were playing a three-day game against Lancashire County Cricket Club, but, as one can expect there, most times the rain was hovering around and so there was very little chance of play. When the RoW team arrived at the ground, we were watching a video in the bus. As it was coming to an end, I asked the guys to go ahead and said I would join them a few minutes later once it ended. So I was alone in the bus and when the video (British TV show The Two Ronnies) ended, I left laughing as that comic duo always did that to me, and as I tried to enter the gate leading to the change room, I was stopped by the gateman who asked me for my accreditation. Nobody in the team had been given any accreditation then, so I didn’t have one. So I tried to tell the guy at the gate that I was a member of the team and gave my name. The gateman turned around and said that’s exactly what Mr Jones had told him this little Indian — a pesky autograph hunter — would say and to not let him in. Since there was a drizzle at the time and play was unlikely to start, I went back to the bus and continued watching another episode of my favourite comedy show.

It was during the short three-week trip to England for the MCC bicentenary Test match in 1987 that Kapil Dev started his love affair with golf.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

A few minutes later, Clive Lloyd, the West Indian great and one of the legends of Lancashire who was then manager of the RoW team, came along with the Lancashire County Cricket Club secretary to the bus and apologised for the prank and said they would accompany me to the change room to ensure I wasn’t stopped again. I was not offended at all as I knew it was all in good fun, but when I entered the change room, everybody to a man pointed to the toilets where Deano was hiding. We all had a good laugh over it and it only engendered greater team spirit that the senior-most member of the team could have his leg pulled and no offence was taken.

It was also during that short three-week trip that I believe Kapil Dev started his love affair with golf. The Aussies and the West Indians would constantly discuss golf, and one of the matches was played next to a golf course. As luck would have it, the rains had delayed the start and from our change room we could see some of the golfers teeing off and the topic in the room turned to what clubs to use and who in the modern game were the longest hitters of the ball.

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It was here that Kapil, who hadn’t played any golf till then, said it was no big deal to hit 250m or whatever the measure is, and the rest of the ‘golfers’ in the team started to tease him about it. Since play was unlikely to start soon, they — especially Deano — challenged Kapil to show how far he could hit and then went to the adjoining course.

Apparently, Kapil stunned them all by driving the ball miles, and as Deano shook his head in disbelief, Dessie Haynes said, “Maan, he did it with his cricket batting grip.” That was probably the first time that Kapil had played golf and today he is one of the topmost golfers in the cricketing fraternity.

Those were wonderful days, but when fate snatches away those whom you shared those days with, only the memories remain.

Rest in peace, Deano. You were one of a kind.