Chris Cairns © Getty Images
Chris Cairns is resorting to extreme measures like cleaning bus shelters to make ends meet and keep fighting his legal battles © Getty Images

Chris Cairns, the man who had once sent stumps flying and the cricket ball into the stands with an alarming regularity against the strongest of teams, has left to a lone battle involving driving trucks that will at most result in keeping him out of jail. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the great man’s fall from grace.

The last two months of 1989 were a wonderful phase for cricket. The short span saw four legends of the sport — Sachin Tendulkar, Waqar Younis, Sanath Jayasuriya,  and Chris Cairns — make their debuts. All four of them went on to become legends in their own countries. Given their stature, nobody would have doubted a secure future.

There is no doubting Cairns’ pedigree. Along with John Reid and Richard Hadlee, Cairns sits comfortably at the table reserved for the top three New Zealand all-rounders. With 3,000 runs and 200 wickets in both Tests and ODIs (he is the only barring Kapil Dev, Jacques Kallis, and Shaun Pollock to reach the “double” in both formats) he certainly belongs to the top echelon of cricketers.

But Cairns’ success story does not end there. His numbers in matches won (batting and bowling averages of 44.57 and 20.19 in Tests; 36.22 and 24.91 in ODIs) are enough to show his role as an impact player. In ICC Knock Out 2000 (currently the ICC Champions Trophy) Cairns guided an unheralded New Zealand to their only ICC title till date.

Fast-forward in time. Cairns retired from international cricket to play the ICL (Indian Cricket League). Cairns seldom played competitive cricket after that. There were match-fixing charges on him after that. He also faces perjury charges in England following his statements during his legal tussle with Lalit Modi.

The charges were enormous. The cost, substantial. Support from the board, none. Support from the fans, if any, frugal. Despite the fact that franchise-based Twenty20 cricket is now an indispensable part of the cricket calendar, nobody has approached him with coaching offers. Cairns has been as good as disowned from a format he would have ruled over, had he been born five years later.

As a result Cairns — perhaps the greatest cricketer of New Zealand across formats — has been driven to clean bus shelters and drive trucks to make ends meet and to keep fighting his legal battles. If he loses them, he would have to face worse (which can include imprisonment).

Let us, to whom cricket has meant so much over the years, realise the situation: Chris Cairns, one of the biggest icons of New Zealand cricket, has been left to resort to extreme measures for survival. He is being paid by men who had perhaps once paid to watch him play.

When the greatest fall, they perhaps fall the hardest.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)