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March 22, 1999

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The Rediff Interview /Dean Jones

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Hell on wheels

 Dean Mervyn Jones
Tough, assertive, confident and the hell of a cricketer -- those are adjectives his friends would use to describe Dean Mervyn Jones. His enemies, and their number is legion, use other words which we won't go into here.

From his first entry onto the world stage as a cocky brat, to his maturity as the pivot of the Australian batting side and captain of Victoria, Jones has always been in the limelight.

Superb driving on both sides of the wicket, fierce hooking and above all, electric running between wickets have been trademarks of 'Deano', as he is known through the cricketing world.

For the Indian fan, it was 1987 that brought the brash Aussie to public notice -- the famous Madras Test of that year, only the second instance of a Tied Test, saw the Victorian make a magnificient 210 in conditions of debilitating heat.

None who had the good fortune to see that Test will ever think of it without recalling images of Deano's knock. The shots that, towards the end of his effort, were a triumph of mind over matter. The constant pauses to throw up beside the pitch. The anxiety that enveloped the stadium, as Jones stumbled, after his marathon, into the dressing room, to be rushed to hospital for treatment while, in his absence, the two teams battled on to a famous tie...

Ironically, though this innings -- and others like his 216 against the Windies in 1988, or his Ashes series of 1989 when he topped the tour aggregates and averaged a phenomenal 88 -- established him as a top-class Test cricketer, the selectors viewed him as exclusively one day material. He was dropped for the 1993 tour of England, then recalled for the one day home series against South Africa, then dropped for Australia's own tour of that country...

How much of his 'now in, now out' presence in the Australian team owed to his cricket, and how much to an iconoclastic attitude that once saw him lead a team out, for a first class fixture, in short trousers will be never known.

As ebullient with words as he was with the bat (Aussies refer to him, only partly in jest, as 'the mouth from the south'), Dean Jones readily sat down to respond, via email, to questions from Prem Panicker. Excerpts:

The Australian mindset today seems to be, catch them young and blood them quick. You were hailed as a child prodigy in your time, so tell us what it takes to break into the big time while still young?

To break into the big time when you are young, there must be a few requirements. Obviously you have to be able to play, but the major necessity is opportunity. Australians donít mind giving a kid a chance -- like Ian Craig, who was 17 years old and became our youngest captain. The Australians like to support the underdog or youngster at any given chance. Youth will always provide enthusiasm and excitement, as well as keep the older players honest and on edge. To get an opportunity is one thing, though, and taking advantage of it is another. Youth tends to show no fear -- an advantage yes, but it can also be their weakness.

When you started out with Victoria, you were the 'brat' among a pack of seasoned veterans. What was the experience like? Was it particularly difficult, getting the seasoned vets to accept your presence in their midst?

My first game for Victoria was an experience! I made 36 not out against Western Australia
 Dennis Lillee
which had Dennis Lillee, Terry Alderman and company. It was also in a difficult period, when there was a clean-out, and some of the senior players didnít like their replacements. As I walked back into the rooms, quite happy with my efforts, I did not realise what was about to happen. Ray Bright, a senior player with a good international reputation, did not like me from the start. He motioned to the team to raise their glasses and made a toast to the worst player he had ever seen put on a Victorian cap.

Well, I was completely guttered! What a statement to make to a debutant! It hurt me and the hurt stayed for a few years, and I used it as a motivational tool to prove to him and to the team that he was wrong. Hopefully, my statistics have changed his mind?

'At times I couldn't stop myself from urinating in my trousers'

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