July 15, 2014

'ODIs will show up your weakness quicker than Tests'

Dean Jones talks about the evolution of ODIs, the Australian team under Allan Border, and his career-defining double-hundred in the second tied Test

Subash Jayaraman: During the tied Test in Chepauk, you were dehydrated, vomiting, urinating, and taken to the hospital. What did the innings do to you mentally, as a batsman and as an athlete?

Dean Jones: Firstly, it put me on the map internationally. People call it courageous and all sorts of things. I never thought that. Courageous was facing [Malcolm] Marshall, [Joel] Garner, [Andy] Roberts and [Michael] Holding on a green pitch in Trinidad. When you play against great spinners, as we did in that heat, it was about having mental toughness, having discipline.

I mean, the heat, we didn't know of it in Australia. We knew that when we are in India, when we drink water, we got to be careful. I was nervous, it was my first Test match [in India]. It took me some time to comprehend really what I did. I have always thought that if you are playing for your country, and you have to dive in the middle of the pitch because the circumstances wanted that, so be it. I have always thought that you got to put your heart and soul for the emblem that you wear on your head, on the baggy green caps.

It was a big thing for me, it was a big thing for Australian cricket because that was the rebirth of the Australian renaissance under Allan Border. We end up winning the World Cup. It was a massive, important tour for all of us.

SJ: How was it personally for you, as a batsman, because you faced unbelievably hot temperatures, and you had no idea what you were doing? What does it do to you as a batsman going forward in your career?

DJ: It was my Mt Everest. I call it that because there comes a moment when you have to look at your opposition and look at yourself - your worst enemy. If you are good enough at Test level to compete, you can hurt the opposition. Fortunately for me, it was my third Test match. I have spoken to Matthew Hayden, he got 203 on the same ground a few years later, in 2001. He also called it his Mt Everest. He told me that he firmly believed, "I'm good enough to compete at this level and do well".

For me, after that Test, I played my first-ever Ashes series. I nearly scored 600 runs in a losing Ashes series. All of a sudden, I started to believe that I am good enough. The biggest problem was that when it is 36-37 degrees, my body starts saying, "I don't want to do this again". That is what I did in Madras. My body hated it for it. I still have problems, to this day, when I am commentating or playing golf in temperatures above 37-38. My body starts to go through shakes, and it is a problem.

SJ: But when you are playing cricket for Australia or Victoria and the temperature rises like in Madras, then it becomes a game of mind over matter. You knew you were feeling the shakes, but you still had to put that behind you and focus on what you had to do as a batsman, right?

DJ: Yes, at the same time you say that you have to keep it simple. Let's look for ball release. I think that is why I have been fortunate to make a lot of big scores. I made a double [hundred] against West Indies. I can concentrate over long periods of time. How do you do that? You have to have unbelievable fitness. More importantly, you have to know when you have to switch on and switch off. If you are about to make a 200 - if you are not a Sehwag or someone else of that kind - it takes you seven hours or so. That is unbelievably difficult. You have to know how to switch on and off in a hurry. I learnt that at a young age. I was able to know that when the ball is coming out of his hand, switch on, let's do this.

SJ: Did your Australian team-mates look at you in a different light after that innings? Did AB think any different of you, did he say anything in private? He taunted you saying that he would send a Queenslander in if the Victorian couldn't deal with it.

DJ: It is no doubt that it put me on the map, it is no doubt that it got me respect. Why is it that we in the media and cricket fans, why do we put so much emphasis on making the first hundred? Or when you get a five-wicket haul? We do that, and I don't like it. I still rate my 48 against West Indies on a green pitch on my debut in 1984 against Marshall and Garner and those boys - that is still my best-ever knock. Yet people say "You only made 48." Yes, and on a really difficult deck, when most other times I would have nicked off and made 1 or 3.

SJ: Even though the 48 was on a more difficult deck, for the 200, you must have had to physically and mentally endure to get there, right? Perhaps that is why there is an emphasis on getting the big scores?

DJ: I remember I made 122 against England, I nearly pulled my ribs apart when I got out because it was ridiculous for me to get out at that time. There were other times when you go out to bat and the bat feels like a 7-iron in your hands and you don't feel comfortable at all. Somehow, you punch out a 40 or 50 and those really are the good days because most other times, you would have nicked off early and made just 5 or 6.

So the first half an hour after you get out is when you have to really ask the right questions. How did I get out? Why did I get out? Am I happy with my knock? Where can I get better? Those are the things that you should ask yourself. A lot of cricketers today, the batsmen in particular, rely on their coaches to come forward and tell them that they have to do this and that. You have to work it out yourself. If you don't work it out yourself, and you want other people teling you, you are not going to make it.

SJ: I want to go back to that team you played in. That was led by AB, it was in rebuilding mode. How would you compare how AB tried to play cricket and how he wanted his team to play against how Michael Clarke is doing it?

DJ: AB was the godfather of Australian cricket. We have had great captains in Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting and Mark Taylor, but it was Allan Border who put it all together for us. If you look at the tied Test in Madras, India had 500-plus Test matches in the team when we only had 140, and AB had 80 Tests himself. He basically taught us to play cricket the right way, got us to prepare properly, to bring some pride back to the baggy green. He literally pulled it out of the mud. We were in the mud because we lost a lot of players to the South African rebel tour. They took the blood money.

At that time, AB didn't want to captain the team. Then Bob Simpson took over and they formed a great partnership. We worked hard on the fitness and worked hard on our defensive skills. All of a sudden we started to think we could do it. We made sure in preparations for the 1987 World Cup that we practised two to three and a half weeks before the first match in the heat of Madras. And the rest is history. We were ranked the worst in the competition and we ended up winning it.

SJ: How do you see Michael Clarke and his captaincy and how he is trying to rebuild this new Australian team?

DJ: Michael Clarke has been greatly influenced by Shane Warne and is prepared to lose a match to win a match. I think he fully understands his players' personalities, what they can do and what they can't. He has to make some hard runs himself. He has to get the full respect of the players, mix with them, and he has done that. He has completely changed his life. He is married and settled. He is prepared to be aggressive and take the game by the scruff of the neck and make it turn the way he wants it to turn, rather than meander along. The influence of Shane Warne… and there is a a little bit of Ian Chappell in the way he goes about things. It's making him a quality captain in his own right.

He says the right things to the media. The players actually look at him and say "Where is this game going?" and he always seems to have an answer. He always looks like, "Don't worry, I am going to bowl so and so to him, going to do that, and this is why we need the short midwicket, and the game will change." That is what you want your leaders to have. You don't want your leaders not to have answers. They might be wrong ones, but at least you go with some positive direction.

SJ: You mentioned Clarke being willing to lose the game to win the game. Was AB that sort too - willing to lose a game to win the game?

DJ: No, he wasn't. He definitely wasn't, particularly at the start of his career, he was more of a defensive leader. He was trying to save the game first before trying to win it. Then he started to realise that we had some good batsmen. There used to be a stage when, if AB was out early we were all out for 200. Then he started to trust the ones like Marsh and Boon, and Taylor and Steve Waugh came along, and there was myself for a while.

AB was very good at man-management. The No. 1 thing about him was that he wanted to be loved. And he was loved because the barrage of bouncers he got from West Indies and the hardship he had as a captain and the fact that he always seemed to mix with the players - he was always there for us. When things started to go well, he didn't want to take the plaudits, he let the players do that. There is a lot we can learn from that.

SJ: You mentioned in one of your interviews that you were scared to face West Indian fast bowlers early in your career. Was it because you were afraid of failure or was it the pace at which they were coming at you?

When a fast bowler bowls over 140kph and you make a mistake, only three things can happen - you miss it, you are out or you are killed. You don't have any luxury of time to kick the ball away or drop your hand. That is why Australia have guys bowling at over 140kph to get through Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10 and jack. That is why speed will always be the winner if you want to be the No. 1 team in the world

DJ: When you face a guy at 150kph, I am telling you, you are awake and all your senses are glowing. I remember speaking to Imran Khan about this - if you want to conquer the world you have got to have more than three fast bowlers who bowl over 150 kph. You can have the best spinner in the world - and Sri Lanka had that with Murali at the end of his career but weren't the No. 1 side in the world.

When a fast bowler bowls over 140kph and you make a mistake on length, only three things can happen - you miss it, you are out or you are killed. You don't have any luxury of time to kick the ball away or drop your hand if you get done in on length. That is why Australia have guys bowling at over 140kph to get through Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10 and jack, whereas the best spin bowler in the world doesn't do that. That is why speed will always be the winner if you want to be the No. 1 team in the world. That is why [Peter] Siddle was left out in the last few games for Australia in the recent Test series, because they are always making sure that the players are keeping the speed up over 140kph.

SJ: Your Test career coincided with West Indies' dominance. What are your memories of playing against them in Australia as well as in the Caribbean?

DJ: It was different in Australia because it bounced a lot. When you play against these guys you have to be very supple in the top half of your body. You got to know when to leave, and duck and days four and five, if it goes that far, is difficult. When you face the Pakistanis like Wasim [Akram] and Waqar [Younis] and Imran Khan, your bottom half has to be very good because they are bowling yorkers and reverse swing.

When you faced West Indies, it was a lot of fun, but every second Test series seemed to be against West Indies. I think we wanted time to breathe, playing against the Zimbabweans or the Sri Lankans or Bangladesh or even England. [West Indies tours] used to make money for the Australian cricket board and every second year they were there. It was fun. I have been blessed and fortunate to play against the greatest players in my era.

I have faced bowlers like Marshall, Holding, Garner, Roberts, Ambrose, Walsh, Imran, Waqar, Wasim, Kapil Dev, Allan Donald, [Brian] McMillan, and let's not forget Richard Hadlee, Morrison, Chatfield, and then you can go through the spinners. I forgot Ian Botham. There were a lot of guys in my era. I call them dinosaurs now. They all bowled over 150 clicks, a lot of them. Only two guys now can bowl at 150 clicks. Maybe two. Dale Steyn when he is on heat, and Mitchell Johnson. Nobody else goes over 150 now.

SJ: What do you think is the reason behind that? Is it over-coaching?

DJ: I think it is just bloody hard work. The sexiness has gone out of it a little bit, I think. And maybe there are too many games. Being a fast bowler bowling at 150kph, 15 times your body weight goes through your hip, knee and your left ankle. You do that competitively and bowl 20 overs a day or 120 times, with holes in the pitch etc. It is just bloody hard work.

It is funny now, I see a lot of the kids are starting to say, "How fast does Mitchell bowl!" They haven't seen the other generation. With all respect to Brett Lee, he was quick, but he never knocked that many blokes over. He got 300 Test wickets but he never smashed any one up. But Mitchell Johnson smashed all these people up. He has got this meanness about him that gets the batsmen thinking that he will rip your head off and eat your body if he has to. He is that type of a bowler. He is not that kind of a guy, but in the middle when he walks out, he is ready to kill you.

Thommo had that, Lillee had that, Garner and Marshall and those guys had that. Ambrose had it. The other guys maybe think they don't want to bowl this quick. Maybe the pitches are the same all around the world, which is sad. Why do we love tennis? It is because there are hard courts here in Australia and USA, there is clay in France, and grass in Wimbledon. You are supplying all these kinds of different tennis players, which is cool. Now with all these pitches with the same pace all the time, you are producing the same type of players - the batsmen who get on the front foot all the time. You look at all these guys today. Shane Watson - his first movement? Front foot down the pitch. Watching that kind of thing can be a little bit boring.

SJ: You were acclaimed as one of the best ODI players. I want to know about your approach when Australia was batting first versus when you were chasing. What was your thinking process when you put on your pads and were walking onto the field?

DJ: You got to know your game, your limitations, what you can do, what you can't. You can't ask a helicopter to go over a wall when it can't. I watched [Viv] Richards, the way he pulverised attacks and I looked at the street-cunning of Javed Miandad and how he went about running between the wickets. I saw him make a hundred against Victoria for Pakistan. He made a 100 off 75 balls and only hit three boundaries. It was about placement.

I tried to hit fours early in the first 15 overs and then place the ball from the 15th to the 40th over, looking for ones and twos, running and putting the pressure on the field. And then have the power to go for the fours and sixes in the last ten overs.

I always felt that - I know this will shock a few people - ODI cricket was harder to play than Test cricket because one-day cricket will show up your weakness quicker than Test cricket. If you can't throw over 50 metres, you will be sorted out. If you can't bowl a ball in the blockhole under pressure, you are going to be sorted out. If you can't swing the ball in the first 15 overs, you are going to be sorted out. If you don't have the power to hit over the top, particularly early in the innings, and have the others believe that you can hit Ambrose over the top of his head, you are going to get sorted out. If you have any weakness in your game, it will come out faster in one-day cricket than in Tests.

SJ: How did you go about constructing an ODI innings? I have heard from Virat Kohli in press conferences that when he walks in, he looks at the scoreboard, looks at the situation, he makes the calculations of what the required rates are, what he needs to do for the first few overs etc.

DJ: It was just one ball at a time for me. I got into a situation where I liked to look at average winning totals and understand it. If it was 3 for 70, and I know that for the MCG the average winning total is 233, I'm thinking that I don't have to play out of my skin to get past that total in the first innings. Probably take a run a ball, go till you need 60 runs in 40 balls left. Then I will hit four boundaries and maybe one six, and that brings it back to run-a-ball situation.

Scoreboard watching can get you in a lot of trouble, basically. Pick on what bowlers, what is his weakness? Maybe Ambrose is too hard to get away. Okay, I will keep him quiet and go after the other boys. You have to know which guys to go against. It is like being a cheetah or a lion, you have to pick the weak one in the pack and go after him.

Allan Border allowed me to experiment. I was the first guy to wear sunglasses. I was the first player to run between the wickets hard and all that kind of stuff. I was allowed to experiment, to push the boundaries of the game.

Now, it is just ridiculous how far they have gone with it, which is really good. The bats are completely different. When I first started in 1988, there were four bouncers an over, and there were no leg-side wides. In the World Cup you were allowed to have seven players on the leg side for an offspinner.

I had a bit of Twitter fun with KP last night [at the time of recording]. He says we don't need night cricket. He is saying that we need to have less matches, not to change them. He says, "You might as well change all the stats and everything for night cricket."

Hang on, you rate yourself an ODI player, let's talk about how the game has changed since I was a player. There were two white balls when I was batting, four bouncers, seven guys on the leg side. There were big grounds. And you look at my numbers and people say that these are not bad numbers compared to today's players. If I was playing today, my numbers would have been a bit different. The game has to evolve and keep changing. I like to believe I started that, but now the guys have pushed it to the nth degree. It is just fabulous.

People call [the innings in the tied Test] courageous and all sorts of things. I never thought that. Courageous was facing Marshall, Garner, Roberts and Holding on a green pitch in Trinidad. When you play against great spinners, as we did in that heat, it was about having mental toughness

SJ: You just mentioned that you were one of the early proponents of the art of running between the wickets. But now you have smaller grounds and bigger bats and there are more Powerplays. Do you see the art of running between the wickets diminishing these days, especially in the ODIs?

DJ: Yes. That is sad. It is almost getting to a point where some of the grounds are getting obsolete. Last year, Chris Gayle hit people on their heads in the crowd. There were broken cheekbones and noses on kids and all that kind of stuff. The grounds are becoming obsolete because of the bats. There are no caught-and-bowleds today, because of the reaction time - it is so difficult to catch it. Plus, they are stronger, they hit the ball further.

We also have to make sure that it is an even battlefield for the bowlers. How far are we going to push these bats? I know they are working on the handles now, to improve lengths and how they hit the ball through impact. The ball hasn't changed that much at all. That needs to change as well because cork is not very good inside cricket balls and we need something else to hold the impression of the ball, instead of being soft. We have to find a ball that lasts through dew problems. There is still a long way to go. We have to be a little bit careful with some of these grounds, particularly in England, which are too small.

SJ: What was the effect of having Bobby Simpson as Australia's coach? Things have gone so far ahead where every team has an analyst breaking down every aspect of the game. What is your take on that?

DJ: I don't think you have coaches now for your country. You have people who have good man-management skills. You don't have a chance to work on a player in the nets that much. Batting or bowling coaches do that now. You have a real good coaching academy to run those things. Now, a lot of the guys can be good coaches. It is really man-management, working out when is the best time to make sure when Mitchell Johnson should make a comeback and all that type of stuff. It is not talking about the technique of how to bowl or swing a ball.

That is what Bob Simpson did. The man-management skills - that is what I think was his weakness. We didn't have an academy at that time, we had good players coming through. Simmo's law was perfect at that time, but now, your head coach is the manager of the team. He will sit back and work out the tactics and strategies and work out what to do, not necessarily working on a player's technique.

SJ: Someone like John Buchanan...

DJ: John Buchanan was the first of the modern-day manager-coaches of today. He brought in the computers, he understood the psychoanalysts and assistant technical coaches.

SJ: You were also involved with the ICL, the first T20 franchise-based tournament in the world, as the operations manager. What are your thoughts on how the BCCI decided to handle issues with ICL and the players, and eventually how the ICL folded up?

DJ: Basically Subhash Chandra, who is the owner of Zee TV, asked me to come up with a bid for the TV rights, which he never got, for the international rights in India. He asked myself and another guy, a TV executive called Ajay Kapoor, and we basically sat in my room in the Oberoi. He wanted to have a tournament and I came up with the idea of the Indian Cricket League basically. We wanted to have eight teams and 25 players per team where international players can play. India didn't like T20 cricket at that time. Then all of a sudden T20 cricket was alive because the Indians were world champions of this in 2007.

Then Lalit Modi shut us down and quickly made the IPL. And the rest is history. But we did breathe some fire. The whole idea was for the betterment of Indian cricket. Yes, we wanted younger players coming through. And yes, it was entertainment television. That is why Mr Chandra wanted it at the time. It forced BCCI's hand on the game.

India and the BCCI hated ODI cricket until they won the 1983 World Cup and all of a sudden they played more ODI games than anyone else. Maybe there should be a world Test championship and let India win it and maybe they will start playing more Test cricket. I was saying that tongue in cheek. But maybe that is how it is. How we are going to look after Test cricket, I don't know.

I think ICL served its purpose. There are some guys now in the IPL and making a living out of it. I am happy for them.

SJ: Any raw feelings at all on how the ICL was marginalised?

DJ: Those feelings came from Zee's networks. They wished it went on, because basically it was their idea and they would have made it bigger and better. But I am happy. They loved doing something along with me and I had a great time at the ICL.

SJ: Do you think it cost you a spot on the Cricket Victoria board?

DJ: I was never on the board, anyway. You have to be there for 12 months to be on the board. I was never there. It hurt me in relation to some commentary gigs around the world at that time. That's all.

SJ: Plenty of listeners sent in this question regarding that very unfortunate comment that you made, which was broadcast on air, about Hashim Amla. You have talked about this earlier in other interviews but people want to know what led you to even say it, and how did you handle the fallout?

DJ: I am not going over old ground. It was ugly, and as people know who know me know very well, I am certainly not a racist and I copped a beating over it from certain people in certain parts of the world. I made a silly mistake and I paid for it. I apologised to Hashim and his father and they accepted it 100% and we are fine.

It also led me to understand that it is a privileged position to be a commentator and a lot of people want to do that and I had that job. It was a silly comment made, I'm not going to go on about it. What made me even say it might make it into a book one day, but it was just stupid and I thought we were off air. That doesn't even make for an excuse there. It was just stupid.