It was in 42-degree heat at Madras in 1986 that Dean Jones – who has died of a heart attack aged just 59 – played perhaps the bravest Test innings by an Australian.
The game would finish as the second tie in Test history, but not before Jones, winning only his third cap, had made an epic 210 in eight hours 23 minutes, lost 8kg, vomited more than a dozen times and peed in his whites. He was rushed to hospital, where he was placed on a saline drip – and later said he couldn’t remember anything after reaching 120.
These days, there would have been an inquiry into an experience that some claimed left him traumatised. Back then, he was simply propped up by team-mates in an ice bath during intervals, and told by captain Allan Border that he would send out a fellow Queenslander if Jones – born in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg – wasn’t tough enough to carry on.
There has never been a more braver innings by an Aussie batsman than Dean Jones’ in Madras
Jones vomited over a dozen times as he hit an epic 210 in over eight hours at the crease
Steve Waugh, his tour room-mate, remembered Jones looking ‘gaunt and pale in the face and had a vacant expression that suggested he was in serious trouble… He had lost control of his bodily functions, and was slumped in his chair saturated in urine, shaking uncontrollably and virtually incoherent.’
Jones’s character was never in doubt after that – though he made sure he drank water, not tea and coffee, on future tours of Asia.
Over a decade, he forged a career as a high-class Test batsman capable of averaging 46, and a one-day pioneer who hared between the wickets like a maniac and marshalled run-chases like a genius. In ODIs Australia won batting second, Jones averaged 65 – and was often not out. He would have been a natural in the age of Twenty20.
Over a decade, Jones forged a career as a high-class Test batsman for Australia
Jones pictured raising his bat in celebration of reaching a ton in a ODI against Pakistan in 1987
The vibrancy of his strokeplay made his death on Thursday in Mumbai, where he was doing commentary work on the IPL for India’s Star Network, all the more shocking. Reports suggested Brett Lee, the Australian fast bowler turned pundit, tried to revive him.
Former Australian captain Michael Clarke tweeted: ‘Speechless. Devastated. RIP great man.’ Ricky Ponting said he was ‘heartbroken’. Justin Langer, Australia’s coach, said: ‘What a great player and a great bloke.’ Tributes continued throughout the day, from all corners of the cricketing world.
Jones was a bridge between two eras, making his Test debut against the mighty West Indians in March 1984 as Australia tried to come to terms with the retirements of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh, and playing his last Test in Sri Lanka in September 1992, just as Shane Warne was emerging on the scene.
Ex-Australia skipper Michael Clarke was devastated by the sudden passing of Jones (pictured)
Shane Warne and Jones pose for a photo at the Melbourne Cup Carnival in 2006
DEAN JONES’ INTERNATIONAL CRICKET CAREER
High score: 216
High score: 145
His humour wasn’t always subtle. When Warne, who had struggled in his first couple of games, started taking wickets to pinch a Test in Colombo, Jones chuckled: ‘Well done, mate. Your average is 230 now.’ After the next wicket: ‘Mate, it’s come down to 150 now.’
On another occasion, Jones asked Curtly Ambrose to remove his white wristband during a one-day final at Sydney. Incensed, Ambrose bowled West Indies to victory with five for 32.
In 1996, he captained Derbyshire to second in the county championship, their best finish for 60 years, only to walk away from the club halfway through the following season after falling out with senior tam-mates, including Dominic Cork, Phil DeFreitas and Kim Barnett.
And a decade later, now behind the mike, Jones referred to the bearded Muslim batsman Hashim Amla as a ‘terrorist’, unaware the broadcast was still live back in South Africa. His contract with Ten Sports was terminated.
He later went into coaching, helping Islamabad United win the inaugural Pakistan Super League in 2016.
But it is as an audacious batsman and electric fielder that he will be best remembered. When England spinner Phil Tufnell bowled his first delivery in Test cricket at Melbourne in 1990-91, he recalls Jones running at him ‘like an axe murderer’. The result: near-decapitation for Tufnell, and four runs.
Daily Mail Australia reported Brett Lee (L) tried to revive Jones after he had a heart attack
Jones (left) won the 1987 Cricket World Cup with Australia after they defeated England
He was a great of the game and his death has left Australia and the cricket world in mourning
By then, Jones’s reputation was well established. A World Cup winner in 1987 on the day of Mike Gatting’s infamous reverse sweep at Calcutta, he later scored 216 at Adelaide against a West Indian attack comprising Malcolm Marshall, Patrick Patterson, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. A year later, also at Adelaide, he made two centuries in a Test against Pakistan.
He played in two victorious Ashes series, averaging 70 during Australia’s 4-0 win in England in 1989 – a performance that made him one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. Even shortly before he was ditched by the Test selectors – prematurely, he felt – he was good enough to make an unbeaten century against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
Yet for all Jones’s flair and innovation, he was also single-minded in his pursuit of success. It’s why he once sought the advice of Geoff Boycott, his polar stylistic opposite. Boycott’s message was simple: ‘Play straight and trust yourself.’
To the delight of millions of Australians, and many others, Jones needed little encouragement to do either.