Cairns v Modi

Judge refuses late witness for Modi

Alan Gardner at the High Court

March 14, 2012

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The judge in Chris Cairns' libel case against Lalit Modi has rejected a late application by the defence to call a further witness to give evidence. The move by Modi's legal team was prompted by an interview given to Indian TV by Balwinder Singh Sandhu, the former coach of the team Cairns played for the in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), Chandigarh Lions, but was blocked by Justice David Bean.

Modi, the former IPL commissioner, is being sued in London's High Court over a 2010 tweet that implicated Cairns in match-fixing during his time in the ICL - allegations the retired New Zealand international denies. Summing up, however, Ronald Thwaites QC, representing Modi, restated his client's case and concluded by claiming it had been "substantially proved" that Cairns was involved in corruption.

Sandhu, who left Chandigarh before the third edition of the ICL, effectively leaving Cairns as coach and captain, was spoken to at the time by Howard Beer, the Twenty20 league's anti-corruption officer, and was reported to have offered no evidence about allegations of match-fixing. He did, however, have an "axe to grind", according to Beer's evidence, due to a disagreement about tactics with Cairns.

The interview with Sandhu was broadcast in India on Tuesday, a day after the court heard video-link evidence from three of the Indian players who have made allegations against Cairns.

"Mr Sandhu's opinion is neither here nor there. The interview effectively adds nothing to what he said in 2008," Bean said. "Once you have stripped out Mr Sandhu's opinion on tactics and the evidence of Monday there is nothing further to it, and I have rejected it."

Bean's decision to strike out the application on Wednesday morning meant there was no delay to the start of summing up by both sides. Thwaites began his speech by suggesting that the case "charts the downfall of a once-great player", who had engaged in a "diabolical plan" to lead young, inexperienced players into corrupt activities.

What "pins the guilt to the claimant's chest", Thwaites said, was the testimony of the three Indian players who gave evidence on Monday. In particular, if the judge believed the testimony of Gaurav Gupta - who claims he was told to score less than five runs in an innings by Cairns - then "the claimant is finished", Thwaites added.

The defence strove to contrast Cairns "combative" nature with his decision not to challenge the ICL about his dismissal - which was officially for failing to disclose an ankle injury. Thwaites also said the judge had to decide on a "straightforward conflict of fact" between Cairns' evidence and that provided by Beer about the hotel meeting that led to Cairns dismissal from the ICL. Cairns has denied that Beer was present but Beer claims he was and that the former New Zealand allrounder spoke to him.

Payments made to Cairns via a Dubai bank account - for work on behalf of an Indian diamond trader - were described as "suspicious" by Thwaites. He also claimed that Cairns' statements to the court contained "many significant lies".

"We submit he lied because he can't deal with the truth," Thwaites said.

Andrew Caldecott QC, for Cairns, began his summing up late in the day and will continue on Friday. He described Cairns' "global reputation" as a cricketer and suggested that the fixing allegation made by Modi "not only destroys his past but it also destroys his future".

Caldecott also questioned how the ICL's investigation was handled, as well as the process of collecting witness statements at the time. At the close of summing up, the judge will retire to consider his decision and it is understood that Bean could take a number of days before producing a written verdict.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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