Former NZ cricket great Cairns in 'serious' condition

Wellington (AFP) –


New Zealand cricket legend Chris Cairns was fighting for his life in a Sydney hospital Wednesday, with his wife speaking out for the first time about their "upsetting" ordeal.

Cairns, 51, one of the world's top all-rounders in the early 2000s, is being treated at a specialist unit after a serious cardiac problem emerged last week.

"He's in a serious but stable condition in intensive care," a spokesman for St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney told AFP.

Cairns was reported to be on life support following an aortic dissection, which is a tear in the inner layer of the body's main artery.

In a brief statement, Cairns' wife Melanie said it was a "difficult, upsetting and concerning" situation for the family.

She said Cairns suffered "a major medical event" in Canberra and had since undergone heart surgery in both the Australian capital and Sydney.

"Chris' family and friends are heartened by the respectful and warm manner in which this terrible news has been reported and received by the public, both in New Zealand around the world, and thanks everyone for their warm wishes, prayers and kind words," she said.

"For now no further statements will be made regarding Chris' situation."

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said the cricket fraternity was "deeply concerned" to learn of Cairns' medical emergency.

"Chris is a much loved husband, father, and son - and remains one of our finest all-rounders. We hope he's able to make a full recovery." White said.

Black Caps great Brendon McCullum put aside past differences with Cairns to lead messages of support.

McCullum had once said "I want nothing more to do with him," after his former teammate was cleared in 2015 of perjury charges related to match-fixing allegations.

McCullum was the star prosecution witness in that high-profile trial, but said Wednesday their "relationship is unimportant" in the current situation.

"It's a difficult subject to obviously talk about. We haven't seen each other for quite a long time," he said on his radio show.

"We've been reflecting on just how fine a cricketer he was when the news came through and what he did for the game and New Zealand cricket throughout his career as well."

Chris Cairns (2nd R) and Brendon McCullum (2nd L), pictured in 2004 playing for New Zealand against South Africa
Chris Cairns (2nd R) and Brendon McCullum (2nd L), pictured in 2004 playing for New Zealand against South Africa WILLIAM WEST AFP/File

Cairns' mother Sue is in Canberra but unable to get to his Sydney hospital bedside due to Covid-19 travel restrictions in Australia.

"Our relationship is unimportant in the whole thing, the fact is that Chris is a father and also a son to Lance and Sue," McCullum said.

"They've already had such tragedy in their life with the loss of Chris' sister a long time ago as well.

"It's a really difficult time for those people and I know the cricket community and all those who support the Cairns family will be suffering right now. Today my family and myself are thinking of those people who are suffering."

Social media was flooded with messages of support, including from Indian batting great VVS Laxman and the Nottinghamshire Cricket Club where Cairns also played.

England's Barmy Army supporters club tweeted: "Sending huge best wishes to @BlacksCaps legend Chris Cairns who is on life support in Australia. Pull through champ."

Cairns, whose father Lance also played for New Zealand, at one time held the record for the most sixes in Test cricket -- a record now held by McCullum -- and was the sixth player to achieve the all-rounders double of 200 wickets and 3,000 runs.