Kolkata: The health update on Chris Cairns, New Zealand’s larger-than-life allrounder in early 2000s who suffered a stroke earlier this month, made one ponder once again as to how uncertain life can be. The man with filmstar looks - and cricketing abilities for which team owners in the world of franchise cricket would have happily broken a bank today - has been left paralysed in his legs and faces a long and uncertain road to recovery.
It completes a gut-wrenching, riches-to-rags story of the man who could have been king. From someone who almost singlehandedly took the Black Caps to their first major ICC title in the ICC Knockout Trophy in Nairobi in 2000, getting his name dragged into a messy match-fixing scandal by a self-confessed conspirator and teammate (Lou Vincent) to eventually working as a truck driver in Auckland after his event management company went into liquidation - life had been the harshest for one of the most gifted cricketers in the new millennium.
If Cairns had been just trying to pick up the pieces after his name was cleared of the perjury case following a long court battle which had erstwhile teammate Brendan McCullum and Ricky Ponting, former Australian captain, testifying against him - the heart attack at 51 years completes his saga of misfortune. The tragedy has left the New Zealand cricket community feeling guilty now with McCullum offering his former nemesis sympathy on hearing of his medical condition.
“Our relationship is unimportant in the whole thing. The fact is that Chris is a father and also a son to Lance and Sue,’’ said former New Zealand captain-turned-coach earlier this month.
Ponting, during his testimonial, confirmed he was with McCullum at the 2008 IPL when McCullum explained he’d taken a call from Cairns relating to a “business proposition,” but had made no further inquiry about the content of the conversation. In 2012, McCullum notified the ICC after being reminded at a training course that it was an offence not to report any approaches from match-fixers.
At this point of his life, Cairns’ transgression can never be possibly proved, but even in a worst case scenario, let it be treated as a tragic flaw in the super performer. He had been, however, a prominent character in his community, raising money for the deaf as a result of his daughter and father Lance both needing cochlear implants.
Carins’ ability to multi-task at the highest level - something which one witnessed only in Ben Stokes in recent times - was never in doubt. Ask Sourav Ganguly, the then Indian skipper who saw his century and a decent Indian total of 264 in the 2000 final of ICC Knockout Trophy being overhauled by a brilliant, counter-attacking century by Cairns while battling an injured knee.
Or the fanboy moment that Ponting confessed to in his autobiography when he had the best view as a non-striker in all-star game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the victims of the 2004 tsunami.
Cairns played 62 Tests and 215 ODIs between a period of 1989 and 2006. While injury – he was unavailable for 55 matches – often blighted his career, it did not stop him compiling 3320 runs or taking 218 wickets in Test matches.
When he walked away from the game, Cairns famously said: “reputationally, I’m completely scorched, burnt completely”.
If his health condition sparks a re-assessment of his stature as a cricketer, it will be perhaps a fitting tribute to this fiercely proud Black Cap!