Jones broadens the horizons

An uncompromising Australian is inspiring England's least fashionable club. He spoke to Adam Szreter
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Dean Jones had just made centuries on successive days for Derbyshire; the first helped them to a resounding 363-run victory over Middlesex in the Championship; the second was not quite enough to prevent defeat in the Sunday League. He might have been reasonably pleased with his form.

"I'm not worried about those type of performances," he said. "I'm just worried about getting results for Derbyshire, improving what we did last year and giving the club some future, some direction, and seeing where it wants to go."

For someone who made 11 centuries in 52 Tests for Australia, and averages over 50 in first-class cricket and 46.55 for his country, a couple of hundreds at Derby probably are fairly small beer, on reflection.

Jones's dedication to his new post started somewhat prematurely, you might say. His wife was expecting their second child when he was about to leave for England in the spring. "Jane said, 'You're not going until you've seen this baby'. So I said, 'well you better get it induced because I've got to go'."

Baby Isabella was induced and dad was on a plane within the hour.

Although his wife may not have appreciated it too much, you feel that Derbyshire are about to benefit from Jones's uncompromising personality. They have struggled to fulfil their potential in recent seasons, despite a regular battery of top-class bowlers, but now they are third in the Championship and have a number of young players who are catching the eye. Jones, however, is not satisfied yet.

"It's been good and bad," he said of his first two months in charge. "We're getting there, slowly but surely. I've inherited a squad and there's no doubt there'll be changes made to it before next year. I can't say which areas at the moment - that would be a bit silly of me, wouldn't it? But we are looking at a few guys and decisions will be made in the next month."

Of the younger players at the club, Jones is in no doubt that they are generally behind their Australian contemporaries in terms of their overall development. "At home, you get picked for Australia at 20 or 21 if you're any good. Here you're just playing the first game for your county.

"County cricket is a full-time professional job and therefore guys stay on longer, earning good money, and positions vacant are not readily available. At home, the turnover is better. We're not frightened of picking young guys. If they show potential, we just whack 'em straight in."

Despite his nationality, as a county captain Jones is clear about his duty to the England team. "I can't play Corky in the NatWest. He's just bowled 42 overs for England and I've got to make sure he does well for his country. That's my job. The club wants him to play well here, sure, but for his career, his life, it matters what he does for England. He wants to play against Staffordshire, which is the little minor county he's from, but I'll rest him."

Even without Cork, Derbyshire are not short of big names. One, Devon Malcolm, is being nursed back to form after South Africa. "We had to pick the pieces up from Dev, who was in bits after South Africa, but we've put him back together and he's a pretty useful bowler again.

"I think that what was done to him in South Africa was ridiculous. Dev can still play for England, without doubt. I've just got to keep him relaxed. He's a loveable bloke, very dry sense of humour, and I've just got to make sure he keeps running in fast and runs straight through the crease, instead of peeling off too quickly.

"Changing a guy's action at the age of 32 or 33, as one particular England fast-bowling coach advised, was bloody stupid. Absolutely ridiculous. I think they're trying to do things to justify their jobs."

Despite the Malcolm affair, Jones believes England are at long last heading in the right direction. "They've got some good selectors, they're starting to pick the right blokes, they're ringing captains up and speaking to players. A player might have got a hundred, but he might also have been dropped four times, so they're getting the right mail.

"Mike [Atherton] has done a good job and guys are starting to earn their coupons, like Goughie. He's starting to take wickets and make runs at county level. England caps used to be handed out, now they're getting earned, which is good. World cricket needs England. We need them playing well. We need a really tight series next year to keep lifting up the standards of Test cricket."

As someone who spent a season with Durham under the captaincy of David Graveney, Jones has the ear of at least one England selector, and he has already had a say. "[Alan] Mullally bowled beautifully here, knocked us over and I thought, 'He's ready.' The major reason was that he swung the ball back in. But I've noticed in the last Test he's gone back to trying to bowl fast instead of shaping the ball. He's always been a fast left- arm medium, not a quick, and he thinks he's a quick again."

As far as his own staff at Derbyshire are concerned, Jones can be proud of the way players such as Johnny Owen, Andy Harris and particularly Chris Adams have responded. "It's a very unfashionable county. We've only won one Championship, in '36, so we're trying to change things. If you pick up the Cricketers' Who's Who, where it says 'Least Favourite Ground', they always say Derby. So we're trying to clean the place up. The players don't like playing here because they always soup up the wickets, and they're facing Malcolm, Cork and Bishop, so I can understand there's a bit of hatred for it."

Jones is quickly becoming something of a local hero in Derby, and if you ask him about his own heroes, he does not have to think long. "Border without doubt. Toughest guy I've ever met mentally in sport. He doesn't care how he looks, he just goes out there and does the business. I've seen him facing the West Indians on wet wickets and he just takes them on. What I like about him is that he doesn't carry a grudge, which I think is very, very important."

At 35, Jones remains one of the best batsmen in the world, but he accepts that his international career is over. "I'm finished," he says. "It's time for the young punks to come in and play. Australia doesn't need me anymore."

Jones has, however, signed to play one more season with Victoria this winter, despite losing the captaincy to Shane Warne, who he believes will be the next captain of Australia.

For the time being, he and his family are adjusting to their new life in the East Midlands. His elder daughter, Phoebe, is settling in to her school a little too well for her father's liking. "She's starting to speak English, which worries me," he says. "She's got this Pommie twang and I'm going to knock the hell out of it." You'd better believe it.