RIP Dean Jones; Cricket loses its cheerful voice

Just when one assumed cricket was getting its act together, the demise of Australian cricketer Dean Jones on Thursday came as a dampener. A remarkable batsman, this generation will remember Professor ‘Deano’ – the moniker by which he was known -- for his commentary.

He was in Mumbai for his stint as IPL commentator when he suffered a heart attack; it is understood that Brett Lee, his fellow commentator, tried to give him CPR but unsuccessfully. On Thursday morning, Jones (59) had breakfast with Lee and another commentator, Nikhil Chopra.

Jones played 52 Tests for Australia and scored 3631 runs at an average of 46.55 with 11 centuries. He famously hit a double-century against India in the tied Test of 1986. Jones also played 164 ODIs and scored 6068 runs at 44.61 with seven centuries. He was part of Australia's 1987 World Cup-winning squad. He made his Test and ODI debuts in 1984 and played his last international match in 1994.

Cricket historian Arunabha Sengupta has recounted how Jones hit a historic double century in Madras. Writes Sengupta: “In just his third Test, he was dangerously dehydrated. With the sun blazing down with intense ferocity at Madras, he retched on the pitch. He wanted to go off, with ‘retired ill’ against his name. The batsman at the other end was the hard-nosed Aussie legend, Captain Allan Border. “If you can’t handle the situation, let’s get in a real Australian. Let’s get a Queenslander out here.”

Jones, Sengupta noted, didn’t go off but batted for 8 hours and 22 minutes to score 210 under the blistering sun to earn his place underneath it. It was the second tie in cricket history.

Dean was popular with a breed of cricket watchers who liked their commentary refined, as opposed to what’s known as the ANZ style of commentary – Australian and New Zealand banter. And when one individual called his commentary style annoying, pat came the reply. "Glad you are watching... just hit the mute button!" he had cheerfully remarked.

And, unlike other commentators drawn to the glitz and glamour of Indian cricket, Dean was a true lover of the sub-continent and could speak passable Hindi.

His only politically incorrect blip as a commentator came when he jokingly referred to South African cricketer Hashim Amla as a ‘terrorist’. He lost his Ten Sports contract for that and offered profuse apologises, an apology that was accepted by Amla. It was an off-the-cuff remark which shouldn’t be held against a great fan of cricket.

He was the head coach of Islamabad United for two stints, winning the PSL in 2016 and 2018. He coached Karachi Kings in 2019 and was appointed interim head coach of ACB.

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