Thousands of jubilant Libyans are dancing in the streets to the news that Muammar Gaddafi has been killed in his hometown of Sirte. But amid these rapturous scenes of celebration, one Australian legend is pausing to reflect on an icon that, unbeknownst to many, changed the face of modern cricket.
Former Australian cricketer Dean Jones has revealed to The Public Apology that he met with the Libyan leader in Tripoli during the off-season of 1987. He described the dictator as a charming conversationalist with some surprisingly progressive views on cricket.
“My wife [Jane] and I were strolling around the Tripoli markets (not the oil ones) looking for some authentic arts and crafts, when I heard a booming voice from behind me, saying ‘Deano, over here!’,” he said.
“Thinking it was probably some generic Australian bogan who wanted to ramble on about my historic 200 in Madras, I braced myself to tell the fucker to get lost. But I turned around and, shit, it was the Colonel himself!”
Jones said that Gaddafi, an unlikely cricket tragic, invited him to his mansion for a few beers and a big bowl of couscous before engaging the former top-order batsman in “an intellectual discussion that centred around the future of One Day cricket.”
“This was 1987, remember, and World Series cricket had come to an end nearly a decade earlier,” Jones said.
“Something needed to be done to re-engage the audience. Gaddafi told me that I, as the most marketable Australian cricketer in the modern game, could be the one to bring about that change. And not just through my aggressive running between the wickets, but something more tangible.”
According to Jones, Gaddafi said the game needed to be “modernised and re-energised.” And it was the stylish politician who first advised the 52-test legend to test out sunglasses on the playing field – a look which was eventually to become his trademark.
“He suggested I don the sunglasses – and to be honest, I wasn’t so sure about it, you know, with all the running in the outfield that we do,” Jones said.
“He casually slipped a pair of gold-rimmed aviator Oakley’s into my hand as we left and whispered gently into my ear: ‘wear these, and the sponsors will go nuts’.”
“It took a while to get the courage to wear them in a game, but I eventually tried them out in a domestic ODI against NSW in 1988. Some of the boys thought that the gold rims were a bit brash, so I stripped them off and just went with the conventional Oakley’s.”
“People call me a trend-setter, the Godfather of modern One Day cricket – but to honest, it was all Muammar’s idea.”
“He also came up with the concept of wearing [lip] zinc in day-night fixtures where the threat of sun damage is negligible.”
Jones lamented the passing of Gaddafi and said that he would push for the creation of a Libyan national cricket team in homage to the long-serving leader, putting his hand up for the coaching role.
“I’ll drill into them the little things – you know, running between the wickets, keeping the ball shined on one side throughout the innings, giving lots of encouragement to the bowler.”
“It would be what Gaddafi wanted,” he added.
Meanwhile, interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told The Public Apology that while it was too early to entertain thoughts of a Libyan cricket team, a national side could be a possibility in a few years time in a “united Libya.”
“One people, one future, one cricket team. I’m not ruling anything out,” he said.
By Dave Edwards