“He was gaunt and pale in the face and had a vacant expression that suggested he was in serious trouble, his body bordering on completely shutting down. At tea on Day Two he came in, 202 not out, to rapturous applause from his teammates and enthusiastic backslapping, but none of it registered – he was like a walking corpse,” says Steve Waugh, who witnessed Dean Jones’ 503-minute epic double-century on this day, 26 years ago at the MA Chidambaram Stadium at Chennai. This match is remembered not only for Jones’s valiant knock, but also because it turned out to be only the second tied match in the history of Test cricket.
Chennai’s humidity has always been an issue of concern, not only for the touring teams but for the home side as well. On that eventful day, quite a few Australians had fallen victim to the city’s harsh weather conditions. Ray Bright, who was sent in as a night watchman the previous day, scored 30 before he allegedly gave his wicket away. Apparently, he was in such distress that he was crying in pain back in the physiotherapist’s room, draped with wet towels and fluids by his side.
Waugh was another player who couldn’t brave the heat after one point and began vomiting at regular intervals due to heatstroke.
Jones lost control of his bodily functions and had asked his skipper Allan Border to retire him through sickness when he walked into the dressing room at tea. But Border’s reaction was a firm: “No way. You can throw your wicket away if you want, but I’m not retiring you hurt.” Jones managed to add eight more runs before his innings folded on a massive 210. He was then rushed to a hospital for a saline-drip to recover, but not before his name went down in history books for playing one of the best knocks ever.
Prior to this Test, Jones wasn’t in the best of form and needed an innings that could not only propel him to limelight but also cement his place in the side. The fight for the No 3 spot was between Jones and Mike Veletta, with the former making the cut more on gut feeling than anything else. However, Jones left no stone unturned to grab the opportunity with both his hands, and while this knock not only signalled one of the most crucial moments in his career, it ensured that the Victorian became a regular feature in the Australian side.
Jones later went on to admit that he hardly remembered the latter part of his knock due to exhaustion. He began to urinate involuntarily and had no control over how many times he vomited. He lost seven kilos in that heat and it took him over nine months to get his weight back. He lost seven kilos in the heat. He said it was his Mount Everest and had to climb it.
At one point, when Jones was batting on 170, the dehydration seemed to get the better of him and he conveyed the same to his captain, to which Border replied, “If you can't hack it, let's get a tough Queenslander out here - get me Greg Ritchie!”
That comment spurred Jones and he went on to add another 40 runs before he was bowled off Shivlal Yadav.
Jones somehow managed to bat during the second innings to score a 49-minute 24, inclusive of three boundaries. The Australians declared their second innings at 170 for five, but not before setting the Indians a stiff total of 348 to get on the final day. Not many expected the Indians to go for the win, but Chandrakant Pandit and Ravi Shastri scored at more than run-a-ball after Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath and Mohammad Azharuddin laid a solid foundation. However, they were bowled out for 347, and thus the match concluded as the second tied Test in the history of cricket.
Needless to say, Jones was awarded the Man of the Match, but strangely alongside Kapil Dev, who scored 119 during India’s first innings. Greg Matthews, who scored 44 and 27 not out and took five wickets in each innings wasn’t even considered.
Steve Waugh summarises the situation aptly in his book as follows: “Feeling perhaps a little guilty, the powers-that-be then decided some 10 minutes later to announce Greg Matthews as the ‘all-rounder of the match’. But by that time we were busy packing our bags and well past being sensitive to their political offering.”
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)