Dean Jones – Sri Lanka’s friend indeed-by Rex Clementine
The Aussies were in Galle for the first Test of the series in 2004 and Dean Jones joked in commentary. He said that it took him less than four hours from Singapore to Katunayake but five hours to get to Galle from Katunayake! He was driving home some pertinent points. Travel in Sri Lanka before the highway days was a nightmare. Sri Lanka Cricket did not raise objections with the television company that employed Jones nor did the Sports Ministry. His criticism was well taken by all and sundry. Jones didn’t mince any words. He was a bold critic. As The Island’s former Editor Mr. Gamini Weerakoon used to say, ‘A good journalist works with his resignation letter in the pocket.’
Jones was a huge fan of Sri Lanka. After the death of Tony Greig, he was an ideal ambassador to promote tourism and he did a splendid job. Some of his best moments in commentary came in Sri Lanka.
He earned the nickname of ‘Professor Deano’ for the pre-match show that he did during a triangular series in Dambulla. Jones was dressed as a Professor giving the pitch report and supporting him was up and coming actress Anarkali Akarsha, just 18-years-old. The show was a hit and fans took an immediate liking to both the ex-cricketer and budding actresses.
Not that his career was entirely smooth. During a Test match at P. Sara Oval in 2006, Ten Sports fired him while the day’s play was in progress for calling Hashim Amla a ‘terrorist’. Jones was off air but the microphone in the studio had picked his remark. He apologized immediately and was reinstated a few months later.
The fact that he was shortlisted to take over from Graham Ford in 2017 as the national cricket team’s Head Coach was a poorly kept secret by Sri Lanka Cricket. The Island asked him what would be the first thing he would do if he got the job. Jones said, ‘ban f***ing football during training.’ The Sri Lankan cricket team’s obsession to engage in a game of football as warm-up before a day’s play and training was frowned upon by many given the high number of injuries it was causing.
Jones was a fine batsman and in his generation only Viv Richards played one-day cricket better. A smart thinker of the game, it was Jones’ bright idea to run the extra run on the throw in the vast Australian grounds. He earned a reputation as an excellent runner between the wickets and when asked what was his secret, he replied, ‘just common sense.’ Soon, others followed the extra run on the throw theory while playing in Australia and it paid rich dividends.
His finest hour in the sport came in Test cricket though during the tied Madras Test in 1986. Jones made a double hundred and the scorching heat took a toll on him. He was vomiting and feeling uneasy but did not throw it away. At the end of his 210, Jones was hospitalized. Coach Bob Simpson said that it was the greatest innings played for Australia. His final Test match was played in Moratuwa in 1992.
Jones was in Bombay doing studio shows for host broadcaster on IPL games. The Island learns that he had gone for a run in the morning and was with former fast bowler Brett Lee when he suffered a severe heart attack in the seven star hotel lobby at lunch time. Lee desperately tried to save him with CPR after Jones collapsed but for no avail.