Brendon McCullum book: The end of the Chris Cairns perjury trial
Former Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum reveals how his decision to retire from cricket came about and what influence the Chris Cairns perjury trial had on it. In his words, here's how the decision was made:
A few days after the end of the Perth test, we play a West Australian XI at the WACA. It's a day/night two-dayer, with the primary objective of giving us a chance to get used to the pink ball before the third test in Adelaide.
The ball may be different, the lights may be on and the stakes much reduced, but some things stay the same - the Aussies win the toss and elect to bat. That's pretty much Day 1. Wags takes advantage of Trent's absence with a back niggle to take five wickets.
On Day 2, we get to bat against the pink ball. When it's my turn at the crease, something snaps. I run at every ball and whack a wild 49 off 28 balls. Hess [Mike Hesson] must be alarmed at what he sees. When I charge, miss with a wild swipe and get stumped, he finds me out the back where I'm having a durry, trying to calm myself down. 'You okay?'
'I'm done, mate,' I tell him.
Hess knows I've been struggling, but it seems like a sudden and emotional decision. He asks me if I'm sure I want to retire.
It is quite sudden and emotional, but I'm sure. I had visions of playing the T20 Worlds in early 2016, then giving away the shorter-format stuff for the Black Caps and just playing tests, but I've come to the end of my tether. I just know in my waters I've had enough.
He's bloody good about it, says he can't pretend to know what I've been through, and asks me if I can stir myself for a couple more fights. I tell him I've got a couple more fights in me, I think. I can get through the rest of this summer's test programme, but that'll be it.
* * *
Partly it's the attritional warfare that the first two tests have turned into, on pitches that have done nothing for the game, just inflated the averages of, mostly, the Aussie top order, who've had the advantage of batting first. They've been games that have tested the patience of both the players and the few spectators who've turned up to watch them, and have ground the fast bowlers into the dust, and, in Mitchell Johnson's case, into retirement. Dull games in truth, which the Aussie cricketing public has had the good sense to stay away from.
But it's not just what's been happening on the field.
In the month since I gave evidence at Southwark Crown Court, the Cairns case has dragged on, a wound to cricket that keeps bleeding like a stuck pig.
It's been all over the media in Oz, as the other witnesses, such as Dan Vettori, Shane Bond, Chris Harris, Andre Adams, Kyle Mills, Ricky Ponting and David White, have given evidence by video, and then Cairns himself.
All this has led to constant speculation by media and social media, and, of course, because I'm one of the three prime witnesses for the prosecution, my name is constantly at the forefront of speculation as to Cairns' guilt or innocence, and my possible motivations for giving evidence. Some of the conjecture has been ridiculous, and from people who should know better, and some of it is downright nasty.
At the head of that queue is, naturally, The Voice of Reason in the Sunday Star-Times. On 22 November his column is headed 'Everyone is looking over their shoulder with Chris Cairns trial'. The column finishes by saying:
"Nothing has changed. Justice Sweeney, the presiding judge in the Cairns trial, has previously said, 'You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all. Your reputation now lies in ruins. You have been stripped of all your honours but you have no-one to blame but yourself.'
"In fact, Sweeney spoke the words in sentencing Rolf Harris. But he could just as easily have been talking about a figure at the heart of New Zealand cricket. Precisely who the guilty figure is, we don't yet know. The jury's still out on that one."
I'm accustomed to [Mark] Reason stretching the chewing gum, but this is plain loco. Someone 'at the heart of New Zealand cricket' is akin to a convicted paedophile and rapist? Who could that be, I wonder? The CEO of New Zealand Cricket, David White? Or me, the Black Caps captain? None of the other witnesses in the case could be construed as being 'at the heart of New Zealand cricket'.
I feel like ringing him up and saying, 'Come on mate, if you really think that, name names. Who are you talking about? Put your money where your poison pen is.'
I've tried desperately hard to keep my head locked into the very demanding cricket right in front of me, but to be honest, it's impossible to ignore the fallout from the trial completely, and it's been chipping away at me like Chinese water torture right through the Australian tour.
Knowing that John Rhodes is, ironically, the ACSU officer on this tour doesn't help. He manages to avoid me completely, despite orders from his boss, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, to seek me out and apologise for the ICC shortcomings in the evidence presented by the ICC at the trial.
The day before the game against the West Australians, the evidence finally comes to an end and Judge Nigel Sweeney begins his summing up and gives his directions to the jury. The more I read about what he's telling the jurors, the more my heart sinks.
Sweeney tells the jury, among other things, that they have to believe two out of the three main witnesses against Cairns in order to find him guilty. Sweeney then goes on to completely and utterly discredit two of those witnesses, Lou Vincent and his ex-wife, Elly. Paraphrasing Sweeney, Elly was presumably so drunk she didn't know what she was saying, and Lou's evidence, though he has been banned from cricket for life for match fixing, can be written off in respect of anything he's said about Cairns as the rambling lies of a troubled soul.
From the moment Sweeney rubbishes Lou and Elly's evidence, the die is cast.
I had no idea if Sweeney is obliged by some rule of evidence to tell the jury that they have to believe two out of the three of us, or if that's his own idiosyncratic interpretation. I have since been told that in the UK Sweeney was obliged to instruct the jury that there had to be two corroborating witnesses in cases of perjury.
From a common-sense point of view, what happens if the jury disbelieve Lou and Elly, but believe me? What happens if they believe me and don't believe Cairns?
Sweeney, to my uneducated ears, appears to be telling the jury that if they believe me and disbelieve Cairns, they still cannot convict him, if they also disbelieve Lou and Elly.
I simply don't understand why the jury cannot disregard Lou and Elly's evidence if they don't believe it, and still reach a verdict based on whether they believe me or Cairns.
I'm not saying that would happen - in my opinion, Sweeney casts aspersions on my evidence too - but if I'd known at the outset what the equation was going to be, two out of three, it would have been a fairly compelling reason not to bother going to London, not to put myself and my family through this crap.
In fact, as the trial developed, I'd been disconcerted to realise that I was the prime witness. Before the trial the police and prosecution had often expressed to me their complete confidence that they had evidence that was going to nail Cairns. I got the impression they had some sort of smoking gun, and that while my evidence was still important, it was a comparatively minor part of the prosecution case. If I'd known that I was basically all they had, it might have been another reason to think twice about doing it.
If my heart sinks on reading that direction, it plunges into my cricket boots when I read the judge's directions to the jury about the 'previous good character' of Cairns, apart from 'keeping money in cash to avoid tax'. His 'previous good character' isn't a defence as such, says Sweeney, but it does count in his favour, in that it supports his credibility and points to him being less likely to have committed an offence.
An extract from a chapter titled The Jury's Out.
Brendon McCullum — Declared. Written in collaboration with Greg McGee. Published by Mower Books, an imprint of Upstart Press Ltd. RRP $49.99. On sale now.