Johannesburg: Star all-rounder Chris Cairns was injured when members of the New Zealand World Cup team were caught up in a nightclub brawl in South Africa early on Friday. Cairns, who has only just returned from a lengthy injury, was knocked to the ground after being punched from behind following a scrap at the "Tiger, Tiger" nightclub in Durban. Cairns suffered a cut mouth, witnesses said, adding that eight other New Zealand players were also involved in the incident. Armed security guards, employed by World Cup organisers to protect the team, rushed the players back to their beachside Durban hotel.
Cairns was hit without warning on the back of the head. He collapsed on the pavement and was assisted by fellow players and four guards. As they left the club some of the players were abused by a crowd, which demanded to know if they were New Zealanders. "It was pretty tense. We were told to get out of there - we went," said New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) journalist Mark Geenty, who escaped with the players in the two cars.
The group caught up in the scuffle included Cairns, captain Stephen Fleming, Craig McMillan, Andre Adams, Scott Styris, Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills. Geenty was inside the club with team physiotherapist Dayle Shackel and media officer Simon Wilson when the players were accosted outside. The footpath run-in was witnessed by the head of security with the New Zealanders Eugene Theron and his three assistants.
Team manager Jeff Crowe said he had given permission for a team night out and he was aware they would be watched over by the security guards. Crowe, however, refused to lodge a formal police report. But Bala Naidoo, a spokesman for the World Cup security directorate, confirmed that an incident had taken place, although he refused to name the players.
"In the early hours of Friday, two New Zealand cricketers were asked by the management of the Tiger, Tiger Club to leave the club," the statement began. "It is alleged the two cricketers removed their shirts to exchange them with each other. This was apparently not in accordance with the club policy. "They were requested by the club management to leave which the cricketers complied with. "The close protectors of the South African Police Service were on hand to ensure that the situation was managed to the satisfaction of all concerned.
"No formal charges were laid by either parties and as such there are no police investigations into this matter," the statement concluded. The Kiwis were scheduled to play their World Cup game against Kenya in Nairobi on Friday, but were forced to take a break in Durban after refusing to travel for security reasons. The four points forfeited to Kenya could cost the Kiwis a place in the Super Sixes from Group 'B' with unbeaten Sri Lanka, the West Indies and hosts South Africa also in the fray. The Kiwis, whose previous game was on Sunday when they defeated South Africa, next play Bangladesh on Wednesday in Kimberley. They are expected to reach Johannesburg later on Friday on their way to Kimberley. Copyright AFP 2001