Accusation reduced my career to dust - Cairns
Chris Cairns, the former New Zealand allrounder, has strenuously denied allegations in London's High Court that he was involved in match-fixing during the now defunct Indian Cricket League. His statement came at the start of his libel case against Lalit Modi, the former Indian Premier League commissioner, over a 2010 tweet that referred to Cairns' alleged involvement in corruption.
Cairns issued the writ in London's High Court in January 2010, shortly after Modi's claims were made public. On January 5, 2010, Modi tweeted that Cairns had been removed from the forthcoming IPL auction list because of his involvement with match-fixing. Cairns denied this but Modi responded by saying: "Let him sue us, then we will produce what we have in court."
Cairns was captain of Chandigarh Lions in the Twenty20 league but had his contract terminated in October 2008, during the third edition of the tournament. The official reason given was that Cairns had failed to disclose an ankle injury in breach of his contract.
However, Ronald Thwaites QC, representing Modi, suggested that this was a "cover-up" designed to allow both Cairns and the ICL to save face after an investigation into fixing within the tournament. "You tried to leave with your tail between your legs in the hope that match-fixing would not leak out as the real reason for your dismissal," he said.
Cairns, on the witness stand, repeatedly rejected the claim that he was sacked because of his involvement in fixing.
"Firstly, I never cheated," Cairns said. "Secondly, you offend me with what you're saying."
Questioned about the meeting on October 26, 2008 that led to his dismissal, Cairns admitted that rumours about match-fixing concerning him and "other internationals" playing in the ICL had been brought up. However, he denied that this was the real reason for his contract being terminated, repeating the statement that he had never cheated.
Thwaites also asked Cairns about his financial situation in 2008, in particular his work for an Indian diamond trading company called Vijay Dimon. Cairns had no contract, only a verbal agreement, to do promotional and sales work, and accepted that he had no previous experience in the diamond industry. He confirmed he received around 900,000 Emirati Dirham ($245,000) in three separate payments over the course of 2008 and 2009.
Earlier, Andrew Caldecott QC, representing Cairns, had set out the reasons for pursuing the case against Modi before the judge, David Bean. He said that the aim was to protect Cairns' reputation, as well as to procure damages, and that the allegation was "wholly untrue".
Caldecott said: "It must have been blindingly obvious to anyone involved in sport that the tweet made an allegation of the utmost gravity - and one which should never have been publicly made without careful enquiry."
Modi's tweet was picked up by ESPNcricinfo but the story was later removed and damages were paid to Cairns after he made an official complaint.
"An allegation of cheating is one of the most, if not the most, serious and damaging of all allegations that could possibly be levelled against a professional sportsman," Cairns said in evidence. "Uncorrected it will destroy what I have achieved over a successful twenty-year sporting career.
"The defendant's allegations have also had a profound effect on my personal and private life. It put a strain on my marriage. It hurts that my wife may think that I am not the man she thought I was. It hurts me too that friends, many of whom are former cricketing foes, will question my integrity as a man and a sportsman and that all I achieved in the great game of cricket is dust."
In evidence put before the court, several Indian players were named as witnesses due to testify against Cairns. His six accusers are former Chandigarh team-mates: Rajesh Sharma, TP Singh, Love Ablish, Gaurav Gupta, Amit Uniyal and Karanveer Singh. Former South Africa allrounder Andrew Hall, who also played alongside Cairns, is due to be called as a witness for Modi as well.
Cairns captained Chandigarh during all three editions of the tournament. His contract was terminated early in the third edition, which ran from October to November 2008, according to Cairns because he had hidden an ankle injury from the league.
He claimed the ankle problem, which had meant he played as a specialist batsman for Nottinghamshire in the English Twenty20 Cup during June 2008, was made worse by his participation in a 1000km charity walk for the Chris Cairns foundation. The charity was set up after the death of Cairns' sister Louise in a rail accident in 1993 and campaigns to increase rail safety awareness.
However, Thwaites said that it was "perfectly ludicrous" to suggest that officials at the ICL were unaware of Cairns' condition. "Everyone knew you had an ankle injury," he said.
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Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo