Altofts stalwart Clive Jackson has paid tribute to former Australian Test star Dean Jones who has died aged 59.
Jones was just 20 when Jackson brought him to England and made him a part of the Altofts side which won the Central Yorkshire League and Yorkshire Council titles in 1981.
“It’s a real shock and a sad blow for everybody at Altofts,” said Jackson after learning the Jones had suffered a massive heart attack in Mumbai where he was commentating on the Indian Premier League.
“Dean wasn’t just a great player but a great friend to me. We have met up regularly over the past 39 years,” he said.
“Thanks to Dean I got to coach for 25 winters in Australia at cricket camps which he was linked to. I was lucky to coach at Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth.
“If I was good for Dean Jones in helping him get experience in England, he certainly was good for me.
“He was a great friend and he was talking of coming to England next year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Altofts’ great 1981 season. Sadly, that will not happen now, but he will never be forgotten.”
Jackson recalls that he knew very little about Jones when he signed him. “It was only later I discovered he had been the most prolific ever batsman in schools’ cricket in Victoria and had scored a double century when only 13,” he chuckled.
Gary Miles, an Australian who played for Altofts in 1980, was responsible for recommending the young Jones to Jackson.
In Victorian Grade cricket Jones was only playing for the Carlton club’s second team but Jackson was prepared to act on Miles’ tip and signed him as one of Altofts four overseas players in 1981.
The other three, Lindsay Crocker, Alan Hunt and Ronnie Hart were all New Zealanders and they lived along with Jones in a house Jackson had rented from his cousin for £20 a week.
Jackson remembers vividly the day Jones arrived in Yorkshire. After getting off his flight to Heathrow he was told to catch the train to Wakefield and ring Jackson when he got there.
“It was April 1 and there was snow in Altofts,” recalls Jackson. “I went to Wakefield and searched everywhere but could not find Dean anywhere, so I went home.
“When the phone rang again Dean asked if I had forgotten to pick him up. It was then I discovered his train had been diverted from Wakefield Westgate to Wakefield Kirkgate because of the snow.
“When I found him, he was cold and shivering. He had only recently recovered from glandular fever. Dean wanted to know how would we be able to play cricket with snow on the ground?
“I told him not to worry and that the snow would melt, and we would soon be able to start playing.”
It will surprise many of the people who came to admire his elegant stroke play and prolific runscoring that Jones was primarily an opening bowler for Altofts who batted at number five.
“Dean was naïve and raw as a cricketer when he first arrived,” said Jackson. He found an amazing selection of ways to get out, but once he found his feet he scored around 700 runs for us.
“The great thing about him was he wanted to learn and was prepared to work hard. He took advice readily and became a key part of what was possibly Altofts’ greatest ever side.”
During his time at Altofts, Jones was introduced to Yorkshire and England opener Geoff Boycott and would regularly go to Ackworth with Jackson to bowl at him.
Jones said earlier this year: “I loved playing at Altofts. It gave me the confidence to go on to do bigger and better things.”
After leaving Altofts he kept in regular contact with Jackson and after making his Test debut against the West Indies in 1984, he asked his former team-mate if he could find him a club in Yorkshire to play for in 1988.
Jackson fixed him up with the Leeds League side Nostell where he produced record-breaking performances alongside fellow Australian Tony Dodemaide.
“Every day the two of them would come back to Altofts to practice when they didn’t have a game. They just loved their cricket,” said Jackson.
Jones has been back to Altofts to visit several times and has staged masterclasses for their young cricketers.
“He never forgot Altofts and Altofts will never forget him,” said Jackson.
Back: Darren Mason scorer. Alan Hunt, Lindsay Crocker, Ted Walmsley, Andy Clinton, Tommy Mason, Steve Wolfenden. Front: Ronnie Hart, Dean Jones, Terry Greaves (capt), Clive Jackson, Ian Frost.