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Chris Cairns: The enigmatic maverick of New Zealand cricket

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Former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns is currently battling for his life at the St. Vincent Hospital in Sydney. The all-rounder is reported to be serious but in stable condition in the intensive care unit. 

Cairns was earlier reported to be on life support in Canberra following an aortic dissection - the condition in which a tear occurs in the inner layer of the body’s main artery. The 51-year-old was later shifted to a Sydney hospital. 

Wishes poured in from the cricket fraternity for the former New Zealand ODI captain’s speedy recovery. 

"We're deeply concerned to hear of Chris Cairns' medical emergency. Our thoughts are with his family in Australia and here in New Zealand. Chris is a much-loved husband, father, and son - and remains one of our finest all-rounders. We hope he's able to make a full recovery, " New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said in a statement. 

Making a mark at an early age

Chris Cairns was an avid sports enthusiast growing up. As a youngster, he excelled in rugby and was even named as a reserve player in one of New Zealand’s Under-17 rugby series games in 1980. 

He honed his cricket skills under the tutelage of his father, Lance Cairns who also played international cricket for the Black Caps and was renowned for his exuberant batting style.  

At the age of 18 years, Cairns represented New Zealand in the Bicentennial Youth World Cup, 1988 and played alongside the likes of Brian Lara, Inzamam-Ul-Haq, Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain.  

A glittering international career 

Cairns made his first senior international appearance for New Zealand against Australia at Perth in November 1989. He scored 29 runs across both innings against a potent Australian bowling attack.

He quickly became known as a powerful and destructive batsman who loved to clear the boundary ropes and hit sixes. An intelligent fast-medium bowler as well, Cairns wouldn’t look out of place in modern day cricket and was to an extent ahead of his time during his playing days. 

In the 2000 ICC KnockOut, Chris Cairns played a match-winning knock of 102* to beat India by four wickets and was also awarded the Man of the Match for his effort. The KnockOut Trophy (later renamed to Champions Trophy) was the first major ICC title won in New Zealand’s cricket history. It was also their only major ICC title up until the WTC final win in 2021.  

Four years later in 2004, he somewhat unsurprisingly broke the record for most sixes in Test cricket, surpassing Sir Viv Richards’ record of 84 sixes held back then. 

Chris Cairns went on to play 62 Test matches, 215 ODIs and two T20Is in his illustrious New Zealand career spanning 1989-2006. He finished his international career with 8,273 runs and 420 wickets.  

Controversies and challenges 

Keeping his cricketing achievements aside, it’s worth mentioning that Cairns was sometimes a pretty polarizing figure while still an active cricketer.

In 2008, Chris Cairns participated in the controversial now-defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL). He faced allegations of match-fixing as the captain of the Chandigarh Lions but fought several legal battles to prove his innocence and also won a defamation case in 2012 against the founder of the Indian T20 League, Lalit Modi. 

He was later accused of being involved in match-fixing by former New Zealand cricketers Lou Vincent and Brendon McCullum before being acquitted of perjury in 2015 at the London court.

Regardless of the controversies that plagued his final years as a cricketer, there can be no denying his talents with willow and ball in hand. The recent outpouring of tributes from the cricket fraternity is a testament to that. 

A player who revolutionised the limited overs game, in particular, with his distinct playing style, Cairns will go down in the annals of cricketing history as one of New Zealand’s top all-rounders who wore several hats. 

From a young rebel to a senior figure in the dressing room that helped end a pay dispute related player strike in 2002, Cairns’ contribution to New Zealand and cricket go way beyond numbers and is certain to last the test of time. 

 

Featured Photo: Nottinghamshire CCC / Twitter 

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