I'm proud of what I have achieved in cricket - Cairns
Former New Zealand allrounder Chris Cairns has told Cricinfo of his "distress" at reported claims by IPL commissioner Lalit Modi that he had been barred from the tournament because of what was alleged on Modi's Twitter post to be "his past record in match-fixing" and explained why he has decided to take the matter to court.
"Modi is … possibly the most powerful man in world cricket today," Cairns said." I couldn't believe what he'd said. My initial reaction of shock turned into outrage. I'm proud of what I have achieved in cricket and I am not going to have Modi or anyone else destroy that."
Cairns is anything but naïve and admits he is aware of murmurings that have been circulating ever since he left the rebel ICL tournament in 2008. "Certain news agencies ran scandalous, rumour-based articles claiming that unsubstantiated allegations of match fixing were the reason for my contract being terminated. These rumours were nothing much more than "pub talk". But they needed to be nipped in the bud, so my lawyer and I denied them at the time, and not another word was heard on the subject.
"There is not any truth in any suggestion I have ever been associated with any type of match-fixing."
Officially, Cairns' contract was cancelled because of fitness issues and he agrees that he was at fault in that he had "failed to turn up properly fit for their tournament".
"I'd completed a five-week, 1000km walk from Auckland to Christchurch for my charity Foundation in NZ in August and September of 2008, just two weeks prior to our assembly for the ICL tournament. My knees were particularly damaged but it was my left ankle which gave me most trouble and meant my cricketing performance was hampered. While I indicated to ICL at the time of my dismissal that I was unhappy with their decision, I understood and respected that their main priority was to have a reputable competition. Subsequently I went back home in December 2008 and had an operation on my left ankle because I knew I had to get it fixed if I wanted to try and regain my ICL contract."
But with the ICL now moribund, Cairns who has not played since, says he was genuinely excited when Sundar Raman, the chief executive of the IPL, suggested via a third party that he should put his name forward for the 2010 auction
"He enquired about my wellbeing and possible interest in putting my name forward for this January's auction and I was keen to do so. It was the IPL who asked me to play in their competition. Emails between Raman and myself followed and all was put in place in late December for my name to go on the initial list of 97 players available to be chosen for the final auction. I received details about the process from the IPL lawyers at IMG. Modi was copied in on these emails, so he was fully aware of my involvement.
"Modi says that it is the IPL who invites players to put their names forward, and it is the IPL who can withdraw the invitation. I agree. My participation in the 2010 IPL is at the league's discretion and it was their entitlement to choose whom they wish. But for Modi to publicly express such damaging statements without any consultation or verification is incredible. He agrees that being on the IPL shortlist was no guarantee he would be picked, although he says he knows of at least one franchise who were interested. "I could have had one last hoorah on the cricketing fields of India. That hope was extinguished with a sledgehammer." According to Cairns in the days that followed the MCC withdrew an invitation for him to tour the UAE with them later this month.
As a result, Cairns instructed his solicitors to take action. "As he won't reply to my lawyers' letters, sue is what I am doing. I'm all for straight talking but you shouldn't just fire out hurtful and damaging comments which are picked up around the world without any evidence to support them."
And what of ESPNcricinfo, who reproduced Modi's post? "It acted responsibly when it heard of my complaint. It took swift action and removed Modi's comments from its site. I am grateful that it has acknowledged that it was wrong to have given it the oxygen of publicity."
Cairns accepts taking Modi to court, if it comes to that, will not be cheap or quick. "The legal route is not one I undertake lightly, but I have moved swiftly to pursue action against Modi because that is where he says he will meet me. Despite that, he is not making himself available to be served with the writ.
"I was - indeed am - proud of the career I carved out in the game. As I move on to other things I had hoped that I would now be able to walk around the cricket grounds of the world, in the company of the sports fraternity, with a degree of comfort and hopefully respect. I had hoped too that if I was remembered, then it would be for my achievements on the field. Modi has, for now at least, taken that away from me."
Modi declined to comment when approached by Cricinfo.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa