We were having one of our long WhatsApp conversations the other day, talking about life in general and cricket in particular. Suddenly, my phone started ringing. Deano had decided it was easier to call than typing away on a little keyboard and then wait for an answer to be typed back. “This is so much better eh? Why the hell aren’t you in Mumbai, mate? I thought you were supposed to be woking on this IPL show with us…? Now where do I see you next - Sri Lanka, perhaps?”
Then he proceeded to tell me he had things all planned out - post the IPL, he would fly to Lahore for the four remaining matches of the Pakistan Super League, where he was the coach of the Karachi Kings. “We’ll probably win the PSL and I will celebrate the win there for a couple of days and then fly to Sri Lanka if the Lanka Premier League is on. If you are working on that, I will see you there.”
Sounds like a plan to me, I said. And then you’ll probably tell me the story of the 210 you scored in Madras. Again. For the 210th time.
“Don’t be cheeky, Mr Director,” said Deano, laughing. And that was how our last chat ended.
I wish I could go back and have a longer, more meaningful conversation. I wish I could tell him how much I admired him for the passion he brought to the game - as a cricketer, broadcaster or coach. I wish I could tell him how much I had enjoyed working with him over the years, arguing with him, sometimes even bickering with him as we worked on cricket broadcasts around the world. I wish I could tell him how much I had learnt from interacting with him over the years, and what an honour it had been. But I can’t. He’s gone. And there’s just a hollow, empty feeling of not having told a friend everything that I should have before it was too late.
I first met Dean Jones in the early 2000s. I had just joined Ten Sports, operating out of Dubai, and Deano was one of the first names on our list when we scouted our commentators. Ten Sports had the rights to cricket in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and it was in Pakistan where I saw him in the flesh for the first time.
I had been a massive admirer of his since I had first watched him play - his one-day exploits were the stuff of legend - the stroke play, the running between the wickets and the fielding were all ahead of his time. And then of course, there was that magical double hundred in the Tied Test in 1986, a knock that needs no recounting for any Indian fan, in a Test that will never be forgotten.
I didn’t know what I was expecting when I walked up to him to introduce myself as the producer for the series, but I know that I certainly wasn’t expecting him to say - “Ah... You’re Indian. Remember Chennai?” before bursting out into a guffaw. It was to become his standard greeting over all the years that I knew him.
He was a man who loved a joke, even when it was on him. Perhaps especially when it was on him. Sometimes, when you went too far, he would flare up, only to calm down and laugh a while later. He was opinionated, a very good quality to have in a television broadcaster, and was never shy of sharing his theories and thoughts, something that was very helpful when I had to put together a live broadcast as either a director or producer.
Perhaps the funniest incident I recall with him is when, on a tour of Pakistan, he was roped in to play a festival game that we were broadcasting. When he was batting (it turned out to be a short innings), we mic-d him up and he commentated while in the middle. He was called through for quick single by his partner, and in contrast to his heydays, he hobbled along to the other end and was nearly run-out, leaving the commentary box in paroxysms of laughter.
When he’d got his breath back, Deano said, “Mate, why are you guys laughing. Don’t you know I’ve had a knee reconstruction of my ankle?” Needless to say, there was nothing but peals of laughter for the rest of that over in the commentary box! The viewers must have been wondering what exactly was going on!
There are better people to write tributes to the man’s cricket, his coaching and his golf.
All I will say is: Dean Jones, you were a real sport, a good friend and always fun to be with. I will miss working with you. Most of all, I will miss hearing you talk about THAT 210. They broke the mould when they made you. Rest in peace, my friend.
(Hemant Buch is a broadcaster and writer who’s been in the business for over 25 years. Formerly a Senior VP at Ten Sports, he currently works on live broadcast of cricket all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s probably chasing tigers in the wild with a long lens. He tweets @hemantbuch)