'Tied Test marked the renaissance of Australian cricket'
Eighteen years on from the historic tied Test at Chennai, Dean Jones offers a blow-by-blow account of his unforgettable double-century in that match, and talks to Andrew Miller about his special memories of playing in India:
That Test at Chennai was your first for Australia for two-and-a-half years, wasn't it?
In fact, it was the third Test I'd ever played, so I had an important part to play for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, Allan Border was in need of support. He came into the game with about 75 caps, and the next-best was probably David Boon or Greg Matthews with about eight. That was compared to a team with more like 400 caps between them. Australian cricket had been badly hit around that time - we lost Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Greg Chappell in 1984, and Thommo [Jeff Thomson] to a certain extent, and we lost a lot of players to the South Africa rebel tour as well. So really we were just a bunch of young kids.
Had Australian cricket ever been at a lower ebb?
Probably not. Personally, I think the tied Test marked the renaissance of Australian cricket. It was around this time that Border and Bob Simpson really took hold of our preparation and fitness, and we started to back ourselves again. The new team included a young Steve Waugh, myself of course, Bruce Reid, Boonie ... the tour put us on the map, both individually and as a team. We learnt that we were capable of beating other teams in their own back yards and against our natural form of the game. Most of us preferred facing the quicks, but here we had to learn to play in hot conditions against the spinners. And I firmly believe that the things we learnt, the confidence we got and the experience of that tour helped us win the World Cup the following year.
Border took you aside and told you that you would be batting in the pivotal No. 3 position?
I'd been fighting with Mike Veletta for that spot, so it was a bit of a difficult situation because we were rooming with one another. But typical of Mike, he took the decision on the chin. I remember Border brought me into his room, told me the news, and said I should just play my natural game, use my feet to the spinners, and back myself. "Don't force things," he told me. "Just allow it all to come naturally." He also added that a lot of guys have played for Australia, so without meaning to do down the honour, he said it was no big deal. But I was still pretty nervous. Two-and-a-half years earlier, I'd been facing Marshall, Garner, Roberts and Holding on green pitches in the West Indies, and now I was being confronted with big turners in India. On each occasion, the conditions were foreign to me.
How did you feel as you left Border's room?
I felt a million bucks after he'd told me what he thought of me. Because, funnily enough, I'd never really talked to AB before, even when I was in the team. He never usually said much, always preferred to keep things close to his chest. But now it was like: "The skipper loves me! He really wants me in his side! Here we go, game on!" Of course, it all worked out well for me, and with 210 in the bag, he obviously liked me a fair bit more after that. That Test cemented a great relationship, and we're still best mates now.
To the match itself - you and David Boon got Australia off to a great start ...
Yeah, at one stage, Boonie and I had been fighting for one spot, but now we'd both got our own spots respectively - him as an opener, me at No. 3. We had to work hard that first day. It was a pretty flat deck, but it was hard to dispel those demons at the back of your mind - visions of Maninder Singh, [Shivlal] Yadav and [Ravi] Shastri turning the ball square. But we got through it. I made a slow 50-odd overnight, but because of that hard work, things turned out differently the following day.
In the course of your innings, you scored 90 runs in non-boundaries - that's the equivalent of running a mile ...
You have to be physically fit to do well over here, no question. At first, I was pinching a lot of singles to get off the strike, but it was after I'd reached my hundred that the cramps set in and I got physically sick through dehydration, which we knew next-to-nothing about before the series. In fact, I think my last hundred came in 66 balls, so my game plan by then was "block block slog, block block slog." That's literally all there was to it, it wasn't correct in any way. Sure, I hit a couple off the middle, but there were at least a dozen that must have gone to within ten metres of the boundary, and we just walked the one. And the game ended up as a tie ...
The physio, Errol Alcott, was becoming increasingly concerned for your health ...
Look, I was completely out of it. By the time I reached 130-140, I was starting to vomit, and the dehydration was setting in badly. I had pins and needles all over my body, I couldn't bend to sweep, and I was struggling even to get down the pitch, as I couldn't move my legs. And then I started to urinate involuntarily. I couldn't stop myself - my body was going haywire and I was entering into shock. Errol kept me alive that day, and I can't believe he'll ever allow another player to go through it. I lost seven kilos in the heat, but I needed to do it - I had to put myself through the wall to get to where I needed to be. This was my Mount Everest. I had to climb it, to let everyone know I could play, and to let myself know that I was good enough to compete at that level. Thankfully Errol looked after me, but by gee, it was bloody hard work. It took me nine months to get my weight back on, and even to this day I struggle when it gets over 37-38 degrees.
What do you remember of the innings?
I only really remember the first part of it. I remember getting to my first hundred, when I waved my bat in the air and all that, but somehow, instead of elation, my subconscious was telling me: "You idiot, why did you put so much pressure on yourself?" It was a bit of a conflict of emotions. One part was telling me: "You've got a hundred for Australia, you're on the map," and the other part was, like: "No you're not, you've still got work to do." So, I just put my head down after that.
When you reached 170, you were convinced you couldn't go on, but Border played some mind games with you, didn't he?
Yeah, he said: "If you can't hack it, let's get a tough Queenslander out here - get me Greg Ritchie!" And being very Victorian, I replied: "Yeah right, you've got no chance." So I stayed, and that moment forced me onto my 200. Looking back, it's great and I wouldn't change a thing, but back then I was a complete mess.
This was my Mount Everest. I had to climb it, to let everyone know I could play, and to let myself know that I was good enough to compete at that level
You reached tea on 202 not out, whereupon your team-mates had to drag you into the shower ...
Yep, they dragged me in, because I literally couldn't put two steps together. But afterwards they padded me back up and pushed me out the door again - only to discover that they hadn't put my box or thigh-pad back on! All I had was my pads, gloves and a bat, but I was only up against the spinners, so it wouldn't have mattered too much. I was out shortly afterwards, and it was then that I started to cramp up real bad. I went into a ball, as everything started to tighten up - my neck, my hands, my stomach muscles, my toes, my hamstrings, my back, my forearms ... everything.
How did the Indians react to your condition?
Look, there's no doubt, Sunny Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were really concerned about my health. At the end of every over, they would come up, saying have you tried these electrolytes, or this sweet lime soda, but on most occasions I just vomited them straight back up, so it was like, well, we won't try that one again. They tried everything to help me, and they were genuinely concerned. I've had a great relationship with them ever since.
You were rushed to hospital straight afterwards ...
Errol Alcott says it was one of the funniest ambulance rides he's ever witnessed, but I really can't remember anything until the next day.
Mike Coward, the veteran Australian cricket writer, describes the scene in his 1990 book, Cricket beyond the Bazaar (Allen & Unwin): "Excited at the prospect of being able to minister to an Australian cricketer, five doctors jockeyed for position alongside Jones and Alcott as the ambulance ... sped through the congested and noisy streets of Madras. Convinced that Jones had suffered a massive heart seizure ... the driver skirted the clogged arteries by negotiating the back streets at a fearful speed. Jones was hurled from the bed as each corner was rounded, and for every turn another muscle went into spasm. There was such commotion that the driver was oblivious to the pleas to slow down, and Alcott endeavoured to hold Jones with one arm while stretching him with the other."
What happened at the fall of the final wicket?
There were two scoreboards in the stadium, so when Greg Matthews got Maninder Singh lbw, I was at mid-on or midwicket, and looked up at the first of them, which had us in front by one. So we'd won! I started running away in elation, but then someone told me to look at the other one, and I said: "Oh, is that a draw then?" Simmo [Bob Simpson] replied: "No, you idiot, it's a tie!" and then started telling everyone he'd been to two tied Tests. We were a bit confused at first, asking each other, "Well, is a tie good?" But in hindsight, a tie was better than a win, because neither team deserved to lose. It was an amazing Test throughout. Everyone talks about my 210, but they don't remember Matthews, who took ten wickets and three catches, and scored about 80 runs without being dismissed. Kapil, meanwhile, took 0 for 100, scored a duck, then made a century to save the follow-on, and tied with me for Man of the Match. Work that one out if you can! The only thing I'm sad about is that it is the forgotten tied Test. If it had been played in Australia or in England, it would be much better remembered. The pictures from Doordarshan [India's national broadcaster which telecast that match] are a bit ghostly, and show lots of heat and shadows. But with that 80% humidity, it was just a bloody hard game of cricket, and ever since then Australian and Indian cricket relations have got on famously.
Amazingly, your next match at Madras was another classic - a one-run win over India in the 1987 World Cup ...
That was another unbelievable game, in a lot of ways. We had a lot of fond memories from the previous year, and had asked specifically for Madras to be made into our World Cup base. I remember practising among cows behind the stadium, near the Buckingham Canal, and by God, we were fit by the time the match came around. The Indians arrived expecting to whip us, because they had beaten us 5-0 in the previous one-day series, but this time we took them the full 50 overs. I remember early in the match, I came down wicket to Maninder and hit him for six. Shastri was on the boundary and dived across, right in front of where we were sitting, and Dickie Bird, who was umpiring, asked if it had carried. I was yelling: "That's six, it carried easily," but Shastri indicated it was four. We complained to Hanif Mohammad [the match referee] and at the interval the score was changed from 268 to 270. And at the end of it all, I threw down the stumps and we won by one run. Everyone thinks India's a bad hoodoo venue for Australia, what with no series victories here since 1969-70, but by gee, India's been very good for Australia, it really has. We've had World Cup wins and tied Tests, and it's a great learning environment for young kids, it teaches you all about discipline and patience, on and off the ground. We're forever indebted to India for what they've done for us.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo