Chris Cairns – Is It Over?

Chris Cairns has embarrassed bowlers and batsmen and brought New Zealand supporters to their feet for more than a decade, but have we seen the last of him in the black shirt?

There is no doubting that Cairns is among the all-time greats of New Zealand cricket, you can tell that by just looking at his stats, averages of 33 and 29 in tests with bat and ball respectively, and 29 and 32 in ODIs. But it’s not just the 8127 runs and 413 wickets in international cricket, it’s the way in which he has got those runs and wickets. The current world record holder for sixes in tests, Cairns at his best is one of the cleanest hitters in world cricket, his six-hitting ability being possibly the main thing to secure his place as a legend of New Zealand sport, and his famous slower ball is amazing to watch. His best performances have often come when New Zealand have needed him most, with the unforgettable century in the Knockout final in Nairobi in late 2000 when majorly hampered by a leg injury and an equally impressive century chasing a big total against South Africa in Brisbane in 2002.

But since retiring from tests at the end of the England tour in 2004, his performances in ODI cricket have declined to such an extent that he was left out of the squad to tour South Africa, with coach John Bracewell saying the lack of match fitness is the main reason for his exclusion. Although he had the option to just slip away into retirement, Cairns vowed to play in not just limited-overs games for Canterbury but in the four-day State Championship competition as well in the hope of regaining his spot in the New Zealand side.

So what is the chance of Cairns making a return?

Based on his performances in the recent triangular tournament in Zimbabwe against India and the home side, it must be said his chances aren’t terribly high. Added to that, Jacob Oram is an all-rounder of considerable potential and with Andre Adams showing improved consistency in his performances at the top level, there isn’t really a spot available in the eleven. Before the tour, some were questioning what seemed to be the automatic selection of Cairns in the one-day side, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to put in the effort of some of the other players vying for spots in the team, and over the course of the tour he did little to prove them wrong.

But the supersub idea could be a lifeline for Cairns. If he manages to go at least half way to rediscovering the form of a few years ago that led to him being unanimously considered the world’s finest all-rounder, Cairns could be a perfect supersub. His equal ability with both bat and ball means that regardless of the toss result New Zealand would have a perfect substitute, and his knack of scoring runs and taking wickets right when they are needed most could make him a very worthy player indeed. But, he must perform well at first class level and make it clear that he deserves the spot.

Upon being dropped from the squad, Cairns had the option of retiring but he chose to try to return to the team. He could continue to serve the team well for as long as the supersub rule lasts (something which will be decided by the ICC at the expiry of its one year trial), but he really will have to work very hard and prove himself for Canterbury, otherwise the fudge will be his only source of income.

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