A sparkling ODI batsmen who made his international debut in 1984, barely a decade after the format was introduced at international level and had few stars, Dean Jones went on to become one of the pioneers of modern ODI batting as he compiled 6,068 ODI runs from 164 matches at an average of 44.61 and at the time, a rapid strike rate of 72.56 with seven centuries. Jones was equally adept at Test cricket, scoring 3631 Test runs at an average of 46.55 where he would have faced some excellent bowling from the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Imran Khan.
After retiring from cricket, Jones successfully transitioned to a role as an analyst, commentator and coach. He has remained an omnipresent figure in cricketing circles, and has previously been linked to the role of the Pakistan national team’s coach, having coached the Islamabad United franchise to win the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Jones discussed his experience of the PSL, spoke about the leadership qualities of Misbah-ul-Haq, how Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad can improve as batsmen, Day/Night Test cricket, as well as Pakistan's chances on the tour of England.
By Saj Sadiq (19th June, 2016)
PakPassion.net : What are your thoughts on the first edition of the Pakistan Super League?
Dean Jones : It was very well put together. I was quite impressed with how the event ran. It was competing in the market space available and competing with the Masters Champions League which ended up struggling; the PSL on the other hand, went bigger and better. The standard of cricket was great, the attitude of the players from all teams was superb and the fact that the final was watched by 77% of the television-watching public in Pakistan tells you the impact and the influence it's already had in Pakistan. The standard of the pitches wasn't great at the start but they got that right later in the tournament. When you have four overseas players in each team then the standard is going to be good.
PakPassion.net : What changes would you like to see for the second edition of the Pakistan Super League?
Dean Jones : There's some talk about playing an Under-19 player instead of an emerging player and I don't know whether that is right. The problem is some of the teams did play their emerging player but he never bowled a ball and then batted at number eleven. I think the captains and coaches have to be trusted and encouraged to help youth come through. Islamabad was lucky enough that we had Rumman Raees and Amad Butt who did very well in their own right so it worked out well for us and we did our due diligence on our emerging players.
PakPassion.net : You worked with Wasim Akram at Islamabad United and he's somebody who people feel would make a good choice as Pakistan Head Coach in future. Do you agree with that viewpoint?
Dean Jones : If Wasim Akram wanted to coach Pakistan I think he could do it without a problem. He would be a brilliant choice. Whether he has the time to do it is the problem. It's a very tough gig and you really have to commit yourself 100% to the job twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. He was brilliant at the PSL as mentor for Islamabad. There was a time when some of our bowlers like Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Sami were lacking in a bit of confidence and Wasim gave them fifteen minutes which I watched. He worked on their confidence and technique and fifteen minutes later both Irfan and Sami were hitting targets, walking around as if they were ten foot tall and they had completely changed their momentum after those instructions from Wasim. I was in awe of Wasim and how quickly he got the bowlers going again. He's one of the greatest cricketers that's ever lived and the current crop of Pakistani cricketers look up to him massively.
PakPassion.net : What was it like working with Misbah-ul-Haq at the PSL?
Dean Jones : Misbah knows the game inside out. He knows the players' attitudes and how they react when under pressure which is a very important thing. At times he can get a little bit negative but I understand that due to the way things sometimes go in Pakistan cricket. How good a captain he is can be judged by this. In the PSL final the opposition scored 174 and we had a large dressing room and large dressing rooms I hate because guys can hide in corners when things are not going well and I felt we had a negativity in the group when needing 175 to win. I said to Misbah that you have to say something to them. He had a blend of West Indians, Pakistanis and Australians in there, we were chasing a high total on a pitch that wasn't easy and the way he spoke with passion and with this amazing vigour in Urdu and English just raised the hopes and aspirations of the team. By the time he had finished his three or four minute blast to the boys about what he thought of them, whilst reinforcing the team's values and what we had trained for, it was just brilliant. We ended up getting the runs easily and I looked at Misbah and said, you are special, you are a very special human being, and that's what I genuinely think of him.
PakPassion.net : There were some reports that you applied for the Pakistan Head Coach position. Can you confirm if that was correct and what appealed to you about the job?
Dean Jones : I applied and Mickey Arthur got the gig. Simple as that. I'm at a time in my life where I can do such a role as my family has grown up and my girls have left home after their studies and I have a bit of time to do this type of job. I have an event-management company in Dubai and there is the commentary around the world but nothing beats the fun I got out of coaching at the PSL. I really enjoyed the way we turned it around in that tournament and did it the hard way after a bad start. Coaching a national team is of course different to coaching a Twenty20 franchise. You haven't got time to coach a franchise team during a tournament. You just work on your team plan, look at who is fit, pick your team and go about doing it. Whereas when you are coaching a national team you have to look after guys' techniques and you are more involved and it's more complicated. Also your relationships with players as an international coach are very important.
I also looked at the timing of the vacancy and who they were playing against next which was England and then Australia; both away series. Of course there was West Indies at home and then New Zealand away as well. Simply put, it was a lot of cricket away from home. I've always thought that Pakistan has had an abundance of cricketing talent and it's just a case of how to get them super-fit and motivated, get their batting right and the fielding right and I think Pakistan has a chance to hurt some countries around the world. It's just about organising themselves and letting themselves know just how good they are and what work is required by each player day in, day out to be the best in the world consistently.
PakPassion.net : How do you see Mickey Arthur doing as Pakistan Head Coach?
Dean Jones : Look, England and Australia have excellent records at home in Test series since the 1990s so don't expect miracles.
PakPassion.net : What do you feel Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq need to do to reach the next level in their international careers?
Dean Jones : Just look at the example of Virat Kohli. He's lifting 150kg weights. The guy has a body fat of less than 8%. They should work on their fielding aspects and their attitude to every aspect of their game. Kohli is the level that the Pakistani cricketers like Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq need to get to. I've got Shane Watson who has recently retired from international cricket aged 35 yet his skin folds are under fifty but I had Pakistani boys at the PSL well over that. Their body has to be their temple. These boys cannot just rely on the likes of Wasim Akram or myself, or other coaches telling them what to do, they need to sit down and work it out for themselves.
I feel sorry for the Pakistani boys because they cannot play international cricket at home and that's really hard and I don't think many international teams across sports really understand how tough that is. However this is something that is out of the control of the players so they need to just focus on what they can control and that is to keep themselves super-fit, keep working on their techniques and become the best they can be without others telling them what to do. I would urge players such as Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to become athletes because I don't believe too many Pakistani cricketers are athletes. They have the talent, but they need to get fitter and better.
PakPassion.net : You've always backed Umar Akmal but he finds himself out of favour once again. What advice would you offer Umar?
Dean Jones : I would ask him, are you the solution or are you the problem? The reason why Umar is not there can always be traced back to his defensive game. He has the offensive game, he has every shot in the book and that's his weakness in that he doesn't have a proper defense and that's why he doesn't make runs consistently on all types of surfaces. He doesn't have that pride in his defensive game. Do you think Umar could do what de Villiers did when he made two runs off eighty balls? I don't think he could. Pakistan is a better team when he is in form, I love the kid and I think he's fantastic but he needs a good person to put their arm around him and say to him that these things are important in your life so improve your defensive skills and get a little fitter.
PakPassion.net : Similarly Ahmed Shehzad is out of the international reckoning. What are your thoughts on him being overlooked by the selectors?
Dean Jones : It's easy to say your dropping is political and someone else's fault but ultimately it's the fault of the guy in the mirror. The game is asking him a question, you've been dropped and you will continue to be dropped in future, what are you going to do about it when you get your next opportunity? Are you going to be bigger, are you going to be better, are you going to be more trustworthy and dependable when you go out to bat? Is your life and career on the line when you go out to bat? I don't want him making pretty twenty-fives off thirty balls. I want to see him making consistent seventies to hundreds when he goes out to bat and that is not what we are seeing.
PakPassion.net : How do you see the Test series between England and Pakistan going?
Dean Jones : Don't worry, the Pakistani bowlers will rattle the England batsmen if they get the ball in the right areas and find their defensive lines and lengths and let the ball do its work. I think the Pakistani bowlers will do very well but they need the support of the slip fielders and that could be a problem. It's the defensive skills of the Pakistanis that are a concern, the offensive skills should be fine. The Pakistani batsmen will need to play the ball late and will be relying heavily on Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to get the runs and it could be a very interesting series if one of the veterans for Pakistan has a good series with the bat. I'm looking forward to seeing Yasir Shah and it will be very interesting to see what type of pitches are prepared. If the home team prepares pitches that seam around, then the English team may not make many runs. I'm sure Amir and the other Pakistani boys will get that ball in the right areas and they will upset the England batsmen, but if they prepare turners then they have Yasir Shah, the best leg-spinner in the world to deal with. The English batsmen will not be sleeping as well at the moment as they were when they were facing the Sri Lankan bowlers.
PakPassion.net : Do you think after the tour of England will be the right time for Misbah to retire from international cricket?
Dean Jones : Age is just a number. Graham Gooch played for England after he was forty years of age. I've seen him at the PSL and Misbah's got the body of a twenty-five year old. He's definitely fit enough and good enough to continue playing for Pakistan. He loves the battle and the competition. People are saying 'you are old, you have to go', but I wouldn't say that. If he's not making runs and he's not enjoying battling through tough sessions facing Stuart Broad and James Anderson then it's time to go. But from what I'm seeing, he's still enjoying the battle and is up for the challenge and he still loves the game of cricket. He's a true professional, I love him to bits.
PakPassion.net : What are your thoughts on Day/Night Test cricket?
Dean Jones : I think it's the way forward especially as we are struggling with attendances particularly in the sub-continent. It's about playing at the right time and I think it will be the catalyst for improving television ratings. Let me describe it like this. Imagine there's a shop called the Test cricket shop which is right next to a train station but it only opens up at 10am and closes at 5.30pm. People go to work on the trains which leave at 7am and they come home at 6pm. But people want to get into the shop but can't because the doors are locked when they want to go in. People are busy, so we need to improve the hours of Test cricket to make sure that people actually get the chance to see the greatest game of all and if that means playing Test cricket at night then so be it. We've made changes to so many areas within cricket but this is one that has not been tweaked. This beautiful old woman called Test cricket, she just needs to be dressed up a little bit more and to be given a bit more respect and let the masses be given a chance to watch Test cricket, because at the moment not many of them can because they are too busy.