Shockwaves have reverberated around the cricketing world and elsewhere with the sudden untimely death of Romsey resident Dean Jones, aged 59, in India on Thursday.
Tributes have poured in after news spread of Jones’ death in Mumbai, where he was commentating on the Indian Premier League. He is believed to have suffered a major heart attack at the hotel where he was staying. Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee tried desperately to revive him.
Jones became an almost larger than life figure on the international cricket scene, in Test arenas and specially in one-day international fixtures, where he revolutionised batting with his flamboyant attacking style and quick running between wickets.
He played 52 Tests for Australia, scoring 3631 runs at an average of 46.55, with 11 centuries and 14 fifties. He was part of the 1987 Australian team that won the ICC World Cup in 1987, and The Ashes in 1989.
His one-day international record of 6063 runs and seven centuries is awe-inspiring, and his epic 210 in the first Test in Chennai in 1986 is still the highest score by an Australian in India. Then Aussie coach Bob Simpson described it as the greatest innings he had seen.
Jones was always forthright, on and off the field, and one wonders if this did not always go down well with Victorian cricket officialdom.
His father Barney was a fierce leader at Carlton Cricket Club, and ‘Deano’ played there and his batting carried him into the Victorian side, and ultimately to the Test team.
AT LOCAL LEVEL
The Jones family has lived in the centre of Romsey for more than 25 years, on a large residential property featuring a magnificent rose garden.
Devastated wife Jane and daughters, Isabella and Phoebe, have made statements in the wake of their husband and father’s death.
“He leaves us with so many wonderful memories that will last forever. At this challenging time, when our grief is so raw, we have drawn much consolation from the many messages of goodwill and support from so many people around the world.
“Given Dean’s special love for the sub-continent, it was especially touching to hear so broadly from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
“We are overwhelmed by the scale of the response to the news of his death, and will forever be grateful for that,” Jane said.
Rob McIntyre, president of the Gisborne District Cricketing Association and vice-president of the Victorian Country Cricket League, expressed his condolences on behalf of many cricketers and followers in the area.
He knew Dean Jones well, both having spent plenty of time at Romsey Park over the years.
“Just a great bloke to talk to, so passionate and always coming up with new ideas. He would join in cricket training sometimes, and played a few games with Romsey, fitting in so well.”
Jones was a good footballer with the Amateurs, and unsuccessful efforts were made to entice him to play with Romsey when he moved to the town.
McIntyre related how the outstanding golfer was once having a rare bad day on the course and he put his clubs down and came across to where some junior cricketers were training on the oval.
He provided a few tips and instructions, and departed, leading to one of the boys asking “Who was that?”
McIntyre’s brother Peter, a leg-spinner who played two Tests for Australia, worked in the Jones’ garden when the family moved to the town.
Jones retired from first class cricket at the age of 34, and Rob McIntyre – like many – remains puzzled why he never achieved captaincy or coaching roles in Victoria.
In the media world, Jones worked in radio and television, impacting his astute knowledge of the game and its participants.
Many of his old foes on the cricket field became lifelong friends, New Zealand fast bowler – Richard Hadlee – who had Christmas dinner in Romsey with the Jones family last year, being one of them.
Romsey Golf Club is deeply saddened by the passing of one of its long time and valued members.
‘Deano’ was club champion in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2017, and a member of the club’s victorious Dalhousie district division 2 scratch pennant teams.
“The club will miss his competitiveness, passion, enthusiasm, generosity, willingness to encourage young players and positive attitude to our plans and works to improve both the course and Romsey Park,” stated RGC president Tony Lakey.
Lakey described Jones as very down-to-earth, who largely played midweek golf at Romsey and at Heathcote on Saturdays for a long period of time.
Romsey golfers have their own particular stories about ‘Deano’:
They include walking across a couple of fairways to tell a joke, an “ideas man” who was always on he lookout for something to assist the club; watching a very young Michael McCarten playing a few shots and realising he was a left-handed using right-hand clubs; many impromptu golf lessons on the course.
HONOURS AT HEATHCOTE
Heathcote Golf Club members gathered in large numbers and paid tribute to Dean Jones on Saturday.
Club stalwart and long-time outstanding player Larry Maxwell said he was honoured to know Jones well and have so many enjoyable times with him over the years.
The club intends to place a special plaque on the par-four sixth hole where Jones achieved the rare feat of scoring an albatross (hole-in-one).
Maxwell said a white picket fence was expected to be erected around the putting practice greens, which will be named in recognition of Jones.
He recalled how Jones and equally competitive former Australian Test skipper Alan Border teamed up three times in a four-ball challenge at Heathcote, and he and fellow lowmarker Dave Clouston managed to defeat them three times.
Maxwell said Jones was very generous, including organising a major fundraiser for the fight against MS, and bringing celebrity speakers along to entertain the audience of 130.
Former Australian Test skipper and ace broadcaster Bill Lawry said he would be remembered for being the player he was, and the personality.
“He wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but he certainly was for the majority.”