reean Jones, who died suddenly in Mumbai where he worked in the media on IPL, was never one of those Australians who seemed in the grip of doubt. Perhaps this is why in recent years he has spent so much time on the modern T20 circuit as an expert, not known for his stealth, and also as an old-fashioned, no-frills coach, most recently for Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League. .
Jones, however, will be rightly remembered more for his prowess as a cricketer in the 1980s and 1990s. He was at the forefront of Australia’s revival. In 1984, the team was in the doldrums; Kim Hughes’ tormented period was about to come to an abrupt end and the team needed new talent, energy and self-confidence, qualities Jones quickly provided in abundance. He always gave the impression that he had few doubts about his ability to succeed at the highest level.
Soon after Allan Border’s appointment as captain, Jones became a kingpin on the Australian side. He bristled at the fold; he was instinctively aggressive but also a fluid race designer, pleasing to the eye. All batsmen are vulnerable at the start of an inning, but when Jones entered the arena he sought to display an intimidating presence even before facing a ball, with a man poised to tear the bowling’s attack to shreds. . Often his dismissal was celebrated more vigorously than anyone else’s.
He ended up playing 52 tests, which seems a surprisingly small number since he averaged over 46 in this format.
It may be that his provocative manner shortened his career, which contained many highlights. His most memorable rounds were in Chennai in 1986 in the second test match to end in a tie. There in the sweltering heat he scored 210, after which he ended up in the hospital on a saline drip.
Jones must have struggled because he suggested he might retire ill, prompting Border’s response: “If you can’t hack him, we’ll have a tough Queenslander.”
Jones, despite having to throw up every now and then, continued to beat. Coach Bob Simpson, who generally avoided hyperbole, described it as an Australian’s biggest round. After hearing of Jones’ death, Border tweeted: “He was one of the greatest natural cricketers I have ever seen.”
In one day, Jones cricket was just as efficient and somewhat revolutionary and he would end up playing 164 games for Australia with an outstanding record. He was lightning-fast between the wickets, a brilliant outfielder with a slender arm, and he sometimes moved around the field before the bowler pitched, a common tactic now but unusual in those days.
He did not hesitate to upset his opponents. More famously, in 1993, towards the end of his career, Jones had Curtly Ambrose, the great West Indies fast pitcher, remove the bracelet from his bowling arm. Perhaps the bracelet distracted the drummers; More likely, Jones wanted to piss off Ambrose, which could mean he lost his body line and length in a one-day international. The ploy backfired. Ambrose was not impressed; he finished with five for 32 in that game; later in the series, the West Indians were seven-for-one in a test match in Perth. Jones was almost certainly unrepentant and by that time he had been sent back to the Test side, to his obvious dismay.
He ended his career in England. He had an affair – and it was an affair – with Durham in 1992 alongside Ian Botham in the fall of his career. He was also captain of Derbyshire in a generally straightforward fashion, scoring points and leading them to second in the Championship in 1996, but resigned the following year, having lost locker room support. It wasn’t a total surprise.
Jones has always been a proud Victorian and a charismatic presence on the pitch. He was abrasive; he spoke with force and clarity, a brilliant batsman and a shameless character, who will be sadly missed by the cricket fraternity. One way or another, he brilliantly embodied our perception of an Australian cricketer of that era.