Go well Deano, you will be missed

Dean Jones, who passed away in Mumbai on September 24, was above numbers, he was about the overall effect, the box-office pull he had and the unbridled joy he bequeathed, a characteristic that he carried into the commentary box.

Former Australian cricketer Dean Jones, passed away following a cardiac arrest in a Mumbai hotel, where he was staying as part of the Star Sports commentary team for the Indian Premier League in progress in the United Arab Emirates.   -  Vivek Bendre

Christmas season memories from the mid-1980s and early-1990s always commence with a pre-dawn alarm. A warm black coffee is gulped and then the television comes alive. It is time for cricket from Down Under with Australia hosting its rivals and infinite charms were on offer.

The quality of the game, venues imbued with history and coated with grass and the attendant live telecast with the right words, appropriate pauses, impromptu guffaws and a hat-tip to nostalgia, were truly utopian. And just as the last remnants of sleep left your droopy eyelids, you see those seagulls take off from the turf because Dean Jones — very much like a gun-toting hero from old Westerns — had drilled a four or lofted a six.

Metaphorically he was wielding a sword or a rifle as Jones moved in for the kill. There was a rebellious streak in him but the Victorian always found time for the good laugh. In an Australian line-up that had top-quality batsman but with an ever-serious veneer as evident through its great skipper Allan Border, David Boon and his opening partner Geoff Marsh, it was Jones who offered the light touch, always the frothy beer to the bitter medicinal vibe that the other three seemed to exude.

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It was a trait that Jones seamlessly carried forward to his post-retirement tenure behind the microphone, calling cricket from across the globe, be it at Lord’s or in Tirunelveli, a town located in Tamil Nadu’s southern part. He wasn’t without his faults as a penchant for getting carried away caused the odd flutter. But the worst was when he used a terribly inappropriate word while referring to South African great Hashim Amla, and paid the price. It took some time for Jones to wend his way back to commentary and eventually he owned his seat with flair.

When you talk about Jones, you are talking about life of the forever sunshine kind. And it was that life which was snuffed out when his heart gave up in a Mumbai hotel, where he was staying as part of the Star Sports commentary team for the Indian Premier League in progress in the United Arab Emirates. A Thursday (September 24) lapsed into grief, throwing up memory shards, scattered words and tear-drenched silences as the cricketing world took a while to accept the loss of a mercurial batsman and an effervescent sound that ruled the air-waves.

Dean Jones, known for his traipsing down the pitch to cart seamers and spinners alike, besides fielding like his life depended on it, made his first tilt at greatness with that knock for the ages — a doughty 210 in the Tied Test at Chepauk in Madras against India in 1986.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

For those inclined towards karma, perhaps Jones was fated to relish some incredible highs as well as his final embrace of the fading light only in India. The Aussie, known for his traipsing down the pitch to cart seamers and spinners alike, besides fielding like his life depended on it, made his first tilt at greatness with that knock for the ages — a doughty 210 in the Tied Test at Chepauk in Madras (now Chennai) against India in 1986.

Jones, the slayer of bowling while wearing the canary yellow in One-Day Internationals, also showed that in traditional whites and a floppy hat, he could equally be at home in the demanding realm of Tests. During that double century, played under scorching heat, a dehydrated Jones lost control of his bodily functions but battled ahead, riding on his will, batting muscle-memory and the constant egging on by his captain Border.

The swashbuckler revealed that beneath rippling aggression he had patience as his spine and hundreds in the Ashes again amplified that truth. Yet, Jones the personality in ODIs is equally important. Much before the Michael Bevans and the M. S. Dhonis, Jones was the real deal in limited-overs contests. He had swagger and boundless energy and it is a pity that from now on we will be referring to him in the past-tense.

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However, his criticality in the way Australia revived itself under Border in the mid-1980s, can never be forgotten. After Kim Hughes left as a nervous wreck and Border got saddled with a team in transition, Jones along with Boon, Marsh, Steve Waugh and Craig McDermott, formed a solid core which had its high point with the 1987 World Cup triumph at old foe England’s expense in Calcutta’s Eden Gardens.

When you look at the runs that Jones stacked up — 3,631 from 52 Tests and 6,068 in 164 ODIs, they may not stagger you in this 10,000-plus-yield era. But Jones was above numbers, he was about the overall effect, the box-office pull he had and the unbridled joy he bequeathed, a characteristic that he carried into the commentary box. To depart at 59 is cruel but being wedded to cricket, he left during another assignment linked to the great game. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. A bat stills, a voice freezes, a memory evolves, go well Deano, you will be missed.