Unlike many cricketers, Chris Cairns’ career is set to be overshadowed by events off the field after a London jury acquitted him of perjury on Monday.
Cairns is among only a dozen players in Test history to achieve the all-rounders’ double of 3,000 runs and 200 wickets, but injuries meant the New Zealander did not reach even greater heights.
As the son of Lance Cairns, a notable all-rounder in the successful New Zealand team of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Chris Cairns was born into cricket although, as a schoolboy, he also represented the rugby union-mad country in the 15-man code before giving it up.
Chris Cairns made a poor start to his Test career, against Australia in 1989, suffering a stress fracture in his back as Allan Border’s men took the long handle to his bowling, ending with innings figures of nought for 60 in 12 overs at Perth.
The injury was the first of several stints on the sidelines that blighted Cairns’ career, although he still played in 62 Tests over 15 years, averaging 33.53 with the bat and 29.4 with the ball — including seven for 27 against the West Indies in 1999.
But the figure with which Cairns became indelibly associated during his playing days, and made him a draw card with crowds, was the Test world record 87 sixes he had struck by the time he retired from cricket’s longest format in 2004.
Lance Cairns was a powerful, if somewhat unorthodox hitter, while Chris allied similar force to a more conventional technique.
Chris’s Test record has since been eclipsed, with the passing years witnessing changes to one-day cricket and the advent of Twenty20 that mean big-hitters are not as rare a breed as they once were.
– Tops Richards’ mark -But one measure of Cairns’s skill as a clean-striker is that even West Indies ‘master blaster’ Vivian Richards — one of cricket’s greatest all-time batsmen — only managed 84 sixes even though he played nearly twice as many Tests as the New Zealander.
The now 45-year-old Cairns became a major celebrity in his homeland and a staple of the gossip magazines.
As for his on-field worth, there were many who agreed with the assessment of Shane Warne when the incomparable Australia leg-spinner wrote: “With better luck in the injury front, he could have gone down as one of the all-time great all-rounders , up there with Beefy (Ian) Botham , Keith Miller, Kapil Dev, etc.”
No stranger to controversy himself, Warne also observed that Cairns was “a bit of a rebel” early in his career, when he clashed with coaches and administrators.
Yet, even in a way Warne never quite managed with Australia, Cairns became one of New Zealand’s elder statesmen.
He was named one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year in 2000 and awarded the New Zealand order of merit upon his Test retirement in 2004.
Cairns continued playing one-day internationals for two years and his big-hitting style also saw him appear in the short-lived Indian Cricket League (ICL) Twenty20 competition.
His ICL involvement led to Cairns launching a libel action against former Indian Premier League (IPL) supremo Lalit Modi over a 2010 tweet in which the administrator accused him of match fixing.
Cairns won the case in 2012, with a judge in an English court ordering Modi to pay £90,000 ($135,000, 128,000 euros) compensation after he found the Indian had “failed to provide any reliable evidence that Mr Cairns was involved in match fixing or spot fixing, or even that there were strong grounds for suspicion that he was.”
Yet the allegations against Cairns in that case, which led directly to his perjury trial resurfaced in December 2013 when he International Cricket Council (ICC) confirmed it was investigating match-fixing claims involving three former New Zealand internationals.
Cairns was just one day into a career as a television cricket pundit when news of the ICC investigation emerged on December 5, 2013.
He was not in the commentary box the next day and the New Zealand Herald reported last year that he was cleaning bus shelters for Auckland council in a bid to make ends meet.