Each time Dean Jones gazes across the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium these days he pinches himself and then smiles. He had survived a rather frightening ordeal.
“If I had to die for the love of the game, what else would be a better place than a cricket ground wearing my baggy green cap,” he says.
It was in this arena on a very hot and humid day in 1986 that the Australian conjured one of the greatest innings in Test cricket - an epic 210 against India during the historic tied Test.
Battling through extreme fatigue in energy-sapping conditions, he felt dizzy, vomited but refused to give in. After his innings concluded, Jones had to be put on saline drips.
Jones remembered the journey leading to the Test at Chepauk. As he confessed, he got “kicked” on the tour of the West Indies in 1984 against four fearsome quicks who worked on his feet movement and mind, scored runs in buckets in the following home season but was overlooked for the England tour and then was picked for the India campaign.
Ahead of the tour “something big happened.” Jones was offered 200000 dollars tax free to go to the rebel tour of South Africa in 1985.
“Back then, the money could buy me three homes, set me up for life. My contract with Cricket Australia was 3000 dollars.”
His father advised him against the move and there he was on the flight to India.
Ahead of the tour, Jones spoke to the great Lindsay Hasset on how to play spin. “’You got to use your feet otherwise they will get you,’ he told me.”
Then he chatted with Ian Chappell who enlightened him about the mind-games of playing spin, crease management, and looking after himself in the heat.”
Interestingly, Jones revealed Aussie skipper Allan Border had question marks about him as a batsman even after his remarkable double hundred at Chepauk.
It was only when he followed that effort with a match-saving 73 not out under pressure on the final day of the third Test in Mumbai that Border acknowledged him as a batsman.
“Kapil Dev took the second new ball, I hooked him for a six and four, square cut him, and for the first time on the tour, Border walked down the pitch and said, now I know that you can play,” Jones said.
Although regarded as a path-finder in one-day cricket for his aggression and athleticism - he made 6068 runs in 164 ODIs at 44.61 – Jones believed he had a lot more to offer in Tests.
In fact, he never played for Australia again in Tests after the 1992 Test series in Sri Lanka where he had scores of 57, 77 and 100 not out. “Mark Waugh got two pairs in that series and he was picked!”
Jones, who notched up 3631 runs in 52 Tests at 46.55, said “A couple of law firms approached me later for suing Cricket Australia for “wrongful dismissal from service.” But he decided against that for such a move would make him unwelcome at most cricket grounds.
The Aussie spoke about pitches becoming flatter in modern day cricket and quipped, “Previously batsmen would shed nervous sweat on the flight to Perth on taking on the paceman on the fast pitches there. Now, they drink a bottle of champagne at the prospect of another hundred.”
Patrick Patterson was the quickest bowler he faced but Jones recollected a vicious delivery from the over-the-hill Jeff Thomson at the Gabba that “exploded” from the pitch and had him caught at third man from the ‘twisted’ shoulder of his bat.
And then, in the city of his destiny, Jones never forgets to pinch himself. He is alive and kicking!
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