Johannesburg: If Chris Cairns can keep body and soul together, paying particular attention to his knees, then New Zealand should be able to start planning for at least a semi-final appearance at the World Cup. After a nine-month lay-off from the international scene, the 32-year-old returned to the Black Caps squad for the final three One-dayers against India recently but only as a batsman.
"I'm still working on my bowling, so I'm still looking at an all-round role," said Cairns who hopes to bowl again when the Kiwis open up their World Cup campaign against Sri Lanka in Bloemfontein on February 10. "I'm working towards giving (captain) Stephen Fleming the option of me as a bowler." In a country which struggles to find a regular supply of top flight cricketers, Cairns is a crucial part of the Kiwi set-up as he has shown time after time, able to turn a game almost single-handed.
In 1998/99, he hit a 75-ball century with six sixes against India, the fastest ever by a New Zealander - for good measure he also chipped in with three wickets. Since his debut against England in Wellington in 1990/91, Cairns has played 154 matches notching up 3,663 runs and taking 154 wickets. At the 1999 World Cup in England, he played having shaken off a calf injury and took 12 wickets as his side reached the semi-finals where he hit an unbeaten 44 in the defeat to Pakistan.
A big match performer, Cairns hit 60 as the Kiwis beat eventual champions Australia in their opening match. He enjoyed English conditions that summer - later bowling his country to its first ever Test win at Lord's and then snatching five wickets and hitting 80 runs as they won the final Test and the series.
Things got better in 2000/01 when he was named the top all-rounder in the world after claiming his best Test figures of 7-27 against the West Indies and joining father Lance as the only Kiwi to have taken 10 wickets in a Test. And just to show that he has the temperament for the One-day showpiece - he smashed a century as New Zealand beat India to win the 2000 ICC Trophy.