Maninder Singh normally jogs for 15-20 minutes every day in his Noida colony. On the evening of September 24, the former Indian left-arm spinner ran for an hour. He was numb from the news of the death of Dean Jones and kept running, like Forrest Gump.
Almost exactly 34 years ago, in September 1986, both men were among the key cast members in the blazing hot cauldron of the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, when India and Australia scripted a historic tied Test.
“I’m very sad,” Maninder told moneycontrol.com
. “For someone so full of life to go away so soon. Whenever I thought about cricket, I thought about Deano.”
In the Chennai Test, Jones scored a heroic 210 despite being so dehydrated that he was disoriented and vomiting and urinating involuntarily.
Maninder said, “As a bowler I liked to flight the ball. In the tied Test, I thought I’d keep doing that, get him to make an error. But he just accepted the challenge and came down the pitch to hit me. We also played against each other in the 1987 World Cup and the Bicentennial Test at Lord’s the same year. Sometimes he came out on top, sometimes I did.”
India coach Ravi Shastri, Maninder’s batting partner in the frantic last minutes in Chennai and another important figure in the ebb and flow of the match, told moneycontrol.com
, “That innings was a tribute to his stamina and fitness. It was sheer willpower to play that long in such extreme conditions. With (captain Allan) Border egging him on from the other side, it couldn’t have been easy.”
Border was Australia’s hard as nails captain, not one to treat his players with kid gloves. At tea time on the second day, Jones was on 202 and wanted to stay back in the dressing room. Border did not show mercy. In fact, he played on the intense regional rivalry within Australian cricket. If Jones, from Victoria, wasn’t man enough to resume the innings, “we’ll get a Queenslander out there”, Border needled Jones.
Jones returned to the furnace and played his full part in a gladiatorial game, sharing man of the match honours with Kapil Dev. The next year, he was a member of the Border-led Aussie side that won the 1987 World Cup, jointly held by India and Pakistan.
These contests revived Australian cricket and built a mutual cricketing respect between India and Australia, leading to the creation of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India, a destination most Australian players dreaded due to its cultural and cricketing challenges, suddenly became a place with happy memories.
In later years, Jones deepened his relationship with India by becoming ‘Professor Deano’, embracing kurtas and alphonso mangoes.
It could easily have ended before it began, in the brutal heat of Chennai in 1986. Jones’ condition while batting was made worse because it did not strike him to load up on water after Day 1, when he was not out on 56.
“I didn't drink water overnight. One hour into day two I knew I was in trouble,” Jones recalled in an interview with Cricinfo. “I didn't drink anything apart from a cup of tea or coffee. We didn't know anything about dehydration and rehydration back then. Then I just batted from memory basically. I can't remember much from 120 on. I know nearly every shot in every innings I played. I can't remember a thing after 120 in that innings.”
Jones’ other major impact on the game was being one of the early specialists of the one-day game. Tall and lean, he tackled the best attacks on the front foot, ran fast and also took his fielding seriously.
“He was ahead of his time in many ways, and an entertainer,” says Shastri.
On India’s 1991-92 tour of Australia, Kapil Dev bowled a great spell where he clean bowled Border and Jones within the space of a few deliveries. When Jones departed, Tony Greig exclaimed, “Goodnight Charlie.”
Greig and Jones are now united above, both having endeared themselves to Indian cricket lovers.