Commentator and Icon Jones’ link with Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Commentator and Icon Jones’ link with Sri Lanka

4 October, 2020

Entertainer. Innovator. Icon. Professor. And above all gentleman cricketer and commentator.

Naturally when he was’ run out’ by the cruel hand of a heart attack in Dubai, the sudden news of the passing of champion Australian batsman DEANNO JONES was a stunner.

JONES was as usual commentary duty in the ‘Dugout’ in Dubai with many other former stars in the ongoing IPL. He had retired to his hotel room when the next afternoon he is supposed to have suffered a massive heart attack.

Watching the former cricket stars telecasting and describing the action out in the middle on the Indian Premier League the previous day, there was JONES in his usual form giving his expert comments on the happenings out in the middle.

JONES has been in the ‘DUGOUT’ year and year out. He was an engaging commentator. Good listening to the advice he proffered. It was a learning curve and experience to those watching and following him.

To this columnist there is a very personal angle --and now emotional -- that merits recounting. Once when Pakistan was playing a Test match against Sri Lanka in Pallekelle, Chisty Mujahid the Pakistani cricket commentator was describing the action on TV when he had been informed that your columnist had completed a half century of cricket reporting for ‘The Times Group’ and the ‘Lake House Group’. Mujahid in addition had mentioned my credentials not only in reporting cricket but also my exploits and records as a cricketer in school, club and later for the Board President’s X1. He said he was amazed at my exploits. JONES who was doing commentary at that moment expressed his amazement and complimented me with much affection and I dare say respect. Mujahid also mentioned that I was the first journalist to tour with the Sri Lanka cricket team on its maiden Test tour to Pakistan after gaining Test status in 1982. That is where I first met Mujahid who was a regular Pakistan cricket commentator with another famous journalist and commentator Qamar Ahmed.

When Mujahid mentioned my rare achievement on TV keeping him company were Ranjit Fernando my former team mate and wicket keeper at St.Benedict’s College, Kotahena from 1960 when I captained and in’61 and Roshan Abeysinghe now an established TV and radio commentator.

JONES who was doing commentary chimed in to mention that I had joined the exalted company of international cricket writers in Australian Richie Benaud, West Indian Tony Cozier and Pakistani Qamar Ahmed and offered his congratulations to me. He said I should be proud because I was the first cricketer and cricket writer in the country to achieve that rare feat. Jones was generous to a fault and left me wondering whether I deserved such accolades.

Another incident of JONES that remains vivid in my memory was this. I was on a tour of Australia with the Sri Lanka team covering the tour when a Test match was being played in Hobart.

JONES walked out to bat, took guard and was facing Sri Lanka’s ‘demon’ bowler at that time Rumesh Ratnayake. Ratnayake had a bowling action that was deceptive and which batsmen found difficult to read.

Ratnayake ran in and delivered an excellent out-swinger that JONES could not read and snicked it to wicket keeper Gamini Wickremasinghe with the Sri Lankan close fielders and Ratnayake jumping for joy because they had scalped a dangerous batsman.

But JONES unperturbed knowing full well that he had nicked a catch, unconcerned began to mark his batting crease when the umpire had no hesitation in raising his finger ruling JONES out caught behind. JONES while leaving had a twinkle in his eye and a naughty wink at Ratnayake. That was JONES the showman for you.

One time back when Sri Lanka cricket was struggling with a drop in standards and looking for an excellent foreign coach to put our cricket right and take it to its former high standard the name of JONES was bandied about. Although he was so very well regarded, nothing came to pass.

JONES was a right hand batman in the classical mould. An ideal model for youngsters watching and wanting to bat in the right style. He always played a straight bat with the cut and the drive on the ‘V’ that were eye-catching to watch.

Watching today’s batsmen playing all the wired strokes like the ‘reverse sweep’, the ‘Dil scoop’, the ‘Helicopter’ shot and several other strokes not in the copybook would have earned JONES’ ire but then it could not be helped because these strokes were essential in T20 and 50 over cricket. The money making game was introduced as a necessity to attract sponsors and spectators because the established game was becoming a bore to watch.

JONES played in Sri Lanka in 1992 when Allan Border brought out a Test team here and had the distinction of scoring a 90 odd and a classic three figure score. Both were exemplary knocks and were fit for batting aristocracy and batting lessons and exciting to watch.

But it was the epic double hundred he made in Chennai against the Indians that stood out. In the searing heat batting for hours he helped Australia and India play out the second tied Test in the history of the honoured Test cricket that he stood up. He was admired most and was spoken of and written about after his unfortunate sudden passing away at the age of 59.

As JONES signed off and ended his commentary, as it were, he will be fondly remembered as an Icon in the gun out who will be missed. May the turf lie lightly over him.

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