Third person Cairns not as spectacular as the true-life version

Chris Cairns has been many things in his cricketing life - match-winner one day, moody the next, variously under the surgeons' or critics' knife - but you always approached a Cairns effort with the hope of something special and very likely

Don Cameron
Chris Cairns has been many things in his cricketing life - match-winner one day, moody the next, variously under the surgeons' or critics' knife - but you always approached a Cairns effort with the hope of something special and very likely spectacular.
So the offer of reviewing Cairns' biography brought the same expectation that the words behind his often breath-taking all-round skill would be as fascinating as his cricket.
What disappointment, then to find that the "ghost", Hamish McDouall, has written the entire book in the third person. The book, published by Hodder Moa Beckett, is all about what McDouall thinks about what Cairns thinks - with my apologies to the Irish.
Evidently this is the authorised biography, which rather insists that the author dress his subject in the finest clothes. McDouall obliges with 263 pages which gush with the great deeds and injuries and other aspects of Cairns' life with his family or the Canterbury, Nottinghamshire or New Zealand cricket team.
Very little of this is new. McDouall does work his way through the Cairns' scrapbook and school reports early on - not the liveliest of introductions and much of the rest of the book is a plod from match to match, from disaster to delight, speckled with Cairns, amazing run of injuries.
A shorter career chronicle, straight from the horse's mouth so to speak, would have much more appeal than the second-hand one-dimensional style. McDouall also has the infuriating ability to hint at some new evidence, and then drop the subject.
When recounting the deeds of Cairns and Lee Germon, who was to captain Cairns at Canterbury and New Zealand level, when playing in the national Under-18 side McDouall states: "That night [in Dunedin] an incident was to occur which, to this day, Lee Germon would not be proud of - an incident, says Chris, which would sour the relationship between the two players forever."
There is no further comment on this cruel blight on Germon's reputation.
Why then mention it?
Did the sourness play a part in Cairns' desertion from the New Zealand side which Germon captained in the West Indies in 1995/96? Or Germon losing the captaincy of New Zealand in 1996/97? Libel lawyers' reputations have been made from less.
Cairns was on an injury break when the New Zealand tour of South Africa in 1994/95 produced the pot-smoking spree which had Stephen Fleming, Dion Nash and Matthew Hart fined, and some other players keeping their heads low.
This led, according to McDouall, "to allegations and rumours of excessive drinking, widespread drug use, rape and even diamond theft." This appears to be the first time "rape" is included among the rumours.
The much-publicised split between Cairns and Glenn Turner, the New Zealand coach is dug over again, with Turner the villain and Cairns the aggrieved one, especially over the injury which he used to lever himself out of the West Indies tour.
The injury must have been worse than it first appeared. At the time, one of the New Zealanders watched Cairns sustain the training injury and said to me: "Well, that looks like Cairns has fixed up his ticket for Notts."
Perhaps McDouall might also have mentioned that Christopher Doig, the New Zealand Cricket CEO, was the puppeteer who had both Cairns and Turner on a string.
McDouall suggests John Graham, the new New Zealand manager, was at fault when dealing with Cairns' early-morning ill-discipline during a Test at Wellington when Doig made the policy, but at least McDouall does allow Cairns to offer the warmest tributes to Graham for his later deeds as manager.
McDouall does have a distinctive way with the English language.
An early reference to Cairns, schoolboy form was "his bowling was great, but his batting even better."
McDouall manages to have a juggernaut moving "at full steam," crams 20,000 into the Basin Reserve for a One-day International and he (or Cairns) describes Chris Lewis as "on his day, the best cricketer in the world" which may be a surprise to the English, and Lewis.
McDouall seems to like "feral" as a word, he has the ball "kissing" the bat in one place and "kissing" the pitch in another and he tosses "pollard" and "fugue" into his copy with all the enthusiasm of a dictionary salesman.
Perhaps the fruitiest offering comes when McDouall describes the noise of planes taking off just beyond the boundary at Arnos Vale in St Vincent - "for a few seconds cricket becomes like charades in a sea of white noise."
Cairns' deeds did establish him as the most spectacular all-rounder in world cricket. More's the pity, then, that when the reader might prefer to have Cairns playing his own dashing strokes, he finds Cairns not giving the final personal flourish but leaning on his bat at the bowler's end.