As the cricket world continues to come to grips with the tragic death of Dean Jones, the sad truth about his broken relationship with Merv Hughes has been highlighted.
Jones died last week at the age of 59 after suffering a heart attack in India.
While many of his former teammates have taken to social media to express their shock and sadness, Hughes has remained silent.
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Jones and Hughes were once “closer than brothers”, playing for Victoria and Australia together.
But that all fell apart when Hughes felt betrayed by Jones when the latter was forced to make a brutal selection decision to drop his mate.
“It’s the biggest regret of my life,” Jones said on Fox Sports' Cricket Legends program in 2016.
Jones made the brutal call to drop Hughes from Victoria’s Sheffield Shield side in the mid-1990s because he believed the big paceman wasn’t at full fitness.
“It got to a stage where he was injured, the previous match he had a hammy or something, and I said, ‘Mate, we've been told by selectors you have to do a trial match. Just bowl five overs in this trial match',” Jones said.
“He wouldn't bowl off the long run-up, he'd bowl off three steps.
“When I went upstairs at the end of the day's play of the second XI match, all the selectors said, ‘No, he's done, we can't pick him’. And I looked at the chairman of selectors and I said, ‘Right, haul him up.’
“So we called him up to the room. We sat down and I said, ‘Merv, how do you feel?' And he said, ‘I told you Deano, I was right. I'll be OK for Tasmania for next week’.
”And then the selectors looked at me and said, ‘It's up to you Deano. You do whatever you think is right’. I looked at him and said, ‘Sorry, you're not ready'.”
Jones and Hughes barely spoke in the 25 years that followed, and Jones conceded he made the wrong call.
“In hindsight, if I had the chance again, I'd play him. The friendship ... the game isn't just about winning all the time,” he said.
“We went to war together. If he didn't hung around with me in Adelaide (in 1989 when Jones made 216 against West Indies), I never would have got a 200. He got hit 45 times.
“When I was captain of Victoria, I always said to myself no matter what friendships, no matter what, I always prepare and look after the White V.
“It was a difficult time. We've addressed it but we're nowhere near as close as we used to be.
“He was also at the end of his career as well; he was fighting those demons and you're a different person when you're, 'What do I do next?' We didn't know what we were going to do next in life after that, so we didn't have much organised.”
Jones said he and Hughes had addressed the issue in the years since, but their relationship was never the same.
Dean Jones’ falling out with Cricket Victoria
It was one of a number of fractured relationships for Jones and the sport he loved.
In April he asked for his life membership with Cricket Victoria to be rescinded and his name taken off the state’s annual one-day player of the year award.
At the time Jones said he was “hurt” by the organisation’s “poor” management and a number of snubs he’d received when applying for jobs.
“Where it has come from is the lack of culture and vision and strategy by the CV administration has just hurt me,” Jones told Sportsday.
“I played 20 years for my state and was proud to have done it. Their five-step plan from 2017 to 2022 is just so far wrong as to where they are going.
“They wanted to be the No. 1 sport in Victoria. Well, that is not happening after AFL.
“They wanted to make permanent Australian players. Well, we haven’t got one decent player in the Australian team except for Aaron Finch, who is the captain.
“The way the administration has looked after things is poor. They did budget costs of $2 million last year, and the Victorian team had no pre-season tournament.
“The 18 premier clubs are supposed to produce all these permanent Australian players. It is so weak. It is just awful the way it has been played.
“Every past player Merv Hughes, Shane Warne, Darren Berry, Damien Fleming, Simon O’Donnell left Cricket Victoria with some sort of axe to grind.”
The 59-year-old, who had coached T20 sides in Pakistan and Afghanistan, admitted feeling “insulted” by the decision to overlook him for the role as coach of the Melbourne Renegades.
“The catalyst was I put in for two jobs for the Stars and the Renegades,” Jones said.
“David Hussey resigns from the Cricket Victoria board and gets the job … He had no experience and nothing behind him.
“Michael Klinger went for the job in front of Trevor Bayliss, Brad Hodge and others. He had no experience and gets the job.
“They have given jobs for the boys, and I think it is an insult not just to me, but to overseas coaches.
“Trevor Bayliss is the best coach in the world and they didn’t want him. I feel we are going the wrong way at the moment.”
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