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OP-ED: In praise of an entertainer

  • Published at 10:29 pm September 27th, 2020
dean jones

Cricket will miss the wit and wisdom of Dean Jones

Pugnacious. That’s the word that comes to mind when you think about Dean Jones.

Watching cricket in the late 80s and early 90s, you would’ve been in the minority if you didn’t think he was one of the best in the business -- a lean and cocky batsman at the crease, forever fidgety and busy, a nervous starter but soon finding gaps all around the field. 

Oh, and running. Running between the wickets like his life depended on it, like the devil himself was on his tail. Turning ones into twos, twos into threes, and threes into all-run fours, driving the fielding side to distraction and inventing the modern-day approach to batting in limited-overs cricket in the process.

For all that, there was a comic element to the Jones persona too. Consider the time, in 1993, when he asked Curtly Ambrose, then at the height of his powers, to remove his white wristband during a one-day match because Jones was apparently having difficulty picking up the white ball. 

This annoyed Ambrose so much that he demolished the entire Australian side, not only in that ODI series, but the Test matches that followed as well. 

Or the time when he referred to Hashim Amla as a “terrorist” in jest, an off-the-cuff Jonesian comment that was picked up by the sound equipment and caused him to be suspended from the commentators’ panel he was on. 

In his book, Sanjay Manjrekar describes how Jones thought the whole episode was hilarious rather than demoralizing.

There was not a racist bone in Jones’ body, though. One of his idols in terms of both batting and overall approach to the game was Javed Miandad. 

And he loved being in the sub-continent. If he is remembered for one thing, it will be for his epic, indomitable double-hundred in Chennai in the famous tied Test against India in 1986. 

And he always had good things to say about the Bangladeshi cricket team, particularly in the 50-over format.

And it was in the sub-continent that he passed away, far too early. That was also the thing about Dean Jones: For all his bravado and sense of good cheer, there was always an element of the tragic hero about him, too. 

He always felt he was wronged when he was dropped from the Aussie Test team in 1992; this probably led to a shortening of his playing career and an unhappy retirement from all cricket in 1998, at the age of 37. 

He had to swallow the bitter pill of knowing that, in spite of the lofty heights he had scaled in his playing days, he would never be spoken of in the same breath as some of his peers, like Steve Waugh, or Mark Taylor, or David Boon. This must have eaten away at him.

So, this is written in tribute to Dean Mervyn Jones -- cricketer, commentator, and entertainer extraordinaire, and always an endearing, fallible blend of the sublime and the ridiculous. 

We will miss you, Professor Deano, and all your wit and wisdom, gaffes and gumption. 

The game you gave your all to is poorer today in your absence. And we, the generation who grew up watching your heroics and high jinks on television, mourn the passing of a cherished part of our youth.

Tanvir Haider Chaudhury has spent most of his career as a banker and is now running a food and beverage company.

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