New Zealand struggle against unorthodoxy: Cairns

New Zealand struggle against unorthodoxy: Cairns

In a career spanning 15 years, Chris Cairns did enough to be considered among New Zealand’s greats. However, Cairns’ will always be a story of not what he did but what he actually could have done had he not been ravaged by frequent injuries during his eventful international stint.

One of the finest all-rounders to ever have played the game, he attracted comparisons with his more famous compatriot Sir Richard Hadlee. Though he fell short by some distance of becoming another Hadlee, Cairns’ numbers show he was hardly disgraced. Over 8000 runs and 420 wickets in international cricket isn’t a mean feat by any stretch of imagination and were he to play for a bigger cricketing nation with the same distinction, he would have been accorded star status.

The 43-year-old holds the same view about Sir Richard. “For me Sir Richard Hadlee is one of the greatest cricketers to ever have played the game,” he told Deccan Herald on the sidelines of a fair organised by Education New Zealand to promote education options in that country.
“I always said that if Sir Richard was an Australian or an English, he would have got far more accolades than what he actually did. His record is phenomenal and he was an amazing cricketer. He was a cricketers’ cricketer,” he remarked. Cairns felt he was a totally different player from Hadlee.

“Sir Richard’s bowling action was beautiful and mine was always a struggle because I didn’t have a natural action. I suppose my batting was a little more orthodox than his though we both enjoyed going after the bowlers. If you compare our bowling, there is no comparison. I was a good bowler and he was a great bowler. I think my value would come from the fact that I could turn a game not just with the ball but with the bat as well.”

The fast plummeting fortunes of New Zealand have him in a bit of worry though. “I know, (we are) ranked eight in the world in everything -- T20, 50-over (they are ranked seven in ODIs) and Test cricket,” he pointed out.

“But I don’t think those rankings are a fair reflection of the talent we have, it’s definitely better than that but at the end of the day we are ranked eighth. So, it’s something that needs to be addressed. New Zealand is a nation that has never challenged consistently for the number one spot in Tests.

They will (challenge) in World Cups but they must try to be in top three in all formats. Lack of consistency in batting has always been New Zealand’s Achilles heel. New Zealand have always had problems with their top four and that’s been through the ages and not just now.”

He didn’t agree that the small pool of talent and competition from bigger sports was the reason for cricket’s decline. “If you look at South Africa, they have the same situation I guess. Their pool of talent is probably as small or as big as ours but they have been able to produce some great talents. For me to be a successful team, you need to have good opening pairs both in bowling and batting.

“I mean you look around the world and look at the teams that have been dominating. (Morne) Morkel and (Dale) Steyn and (Stuart) Broad and (James) Anderson currently. You look back to (Glenn) McGrath and Brett Lee, Wasim (Akram) and Waqar (Younis)... For me the biggest step that India also have to take is developing fast bowling. Not just one fast bowler but a combination. If you had Zaheer (Khan) bowling like he was two years ago and Srinath together, India would have won more matches overseas,” he observed.

Unorthodoxy, Cairns felt, was the reason behind Kiwis’ struggles against sub-continental nations. “New Zealand seem to struggle against the unorthodox. Like (Muttiah) Murali, R Ashwin, (Anil) Kumble, (Ajantha) Mendis or even (Lasith) Malinga. We do tend to struggle against that type of bowling. But when it comes to orthodox play like Australia and England, we tend to do well. I am not sure why we struggle against the unorthodox but again that’s an issue we have to address.”