OPINION

How 'Deano' helped inspire a generation of cricket lovers

Dean Jones is revered as one of Australia's greatest batsman, especially in one-dayers. Picture: Getty Images
Dean Jones is revered as one of Australia's greatest batsman, especially in one-dayers. Picture: Getty Images

Cricket was my religion as a kid. And there was only one god - Dean Mervyn Jones.

This is no disrespect to Mark Taylor. Geoff Marsh or David Boon, either. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't death riding them when they came into bat so the wait to watch my hero, Dean Jones, was as short as possible.

As a youngster I couldn't care less if Australia was reeling at 3-20 on the opening day of the Test. Because it meant Deano, batting third drop, would confidently strut to the middle with his trusty County or Kookaburra, ready to unleash damage with trademark cockiness.

He was the man many kids wanted to be. The bloke with that x-factor and ability to excite that naturally attracts youngsters who want to be like the 'big dog' in the yard.

His unexpected passing on Thursday night really reminded me of my own mortality as one of my childhood idols left us.

His 210 in a Test against India in Chennai in 1986, where he battled extreme heat and dehydration, will deservedly go down as his trademark innings.

But it was a knock four years later that captured my attention, as a nine-year-old who could already watch an entire Test without tiring of it.

When someone asks "remember that one-day innings of Deano's at the Gabba?", which will happen often this week, most cricket nuffies will know exactly what you're talking about.

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It was 1990. The golden era of one day internationals, when batting at better than a run a ball was virtually akin to witchcraft.

Jones belted 145 against England at the Gabba, his highest one day score. It was compiled in a typical cavalier way that just had you transfixed to the end.

It wasn't just his swashbuckling stroke play, either. It was the brilliant running between wickets, his superb fielding. But most importantly it was the charisma that oozed from everything he did on the field.

Back to Taylor and Marsh.

This might sound ridiculous to those who have fostered a love of one day cricket through a more recent era blessed with explosive opening batsman like Adam Gilchrist, Sanath Jayasuriya and company. But if Taylor and Marsh had amassed 50 without loss through the first 15 overs, it was considered a tremendous platform.

Perhaps it added to Jones' allure. He would follow them at three, his job to push the run rate and set the power hitters up for the final onslaught.

The other incident which sums Jones up to a tee is his brush with feared West Indian paceman Curtly Ambrose during a one-day in Sydney in 1993.

Never one to take a backward step, Jones told him to take off his white sweatbands as they were making it difficult for him to spot the white ball in Ambrose's release.

It proved a major mistake as a furious Ambrose took five wickets in a West Indies win, including Jones for 13.

Jones later admitted he stuffed up, but it encapsulated his mindset on a cricket field. He didn't care about anyone's reputation or how good they were, he simply believed he was better.

I still remember spotting the cricket on a TV in a shopping centre. Couldn't have been more than ten.

Boonie had just been dismissed and I excitedly knew what that meant. It was Deano time.

Mum left me at the TV, content in the knowledge that I wasn't going anywhere while the cricket was on. And especially when my hero with the trademark white zinc cream on his lips was doing his thing.

Australia cricket coach Justin Langer summed it up nicely after news of Jones' death filtered through on Thursday night.

"Not many cricketers can say they've influenced the way the game is played," Langer said.

Langer is spot on.

Jones stood out in the nineties because of his brash risk-taking. His penchant for jumping down the pitch and hitting over the top, taking on the world's fastest bowlers with his hook shot or turning twos into threes with lightning running between the wickets.

He did things other players could not, or weren't brave enough to. They weren't qualities that are now commonplace in today's game, particularly in the shorter formats.

RIP Jonesy. The outpouring of shock from fans of my vintage this week, and the reflection and sense of nostalgia that followed, is indicative of the impact you had.

My love of cricket is largely down to you, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

This story Why 'Deano' was the cricketer every kid wanted to be first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.