The refusal of Rod Marsh, the former Australia wicketkeeper, to sign a cricket bat which already carried Chris Cairns’ autograph was an early sign that players had been “warned off” him by the ICC, the jury at Southwark Crown Court heard today.
The crown prosecutor, Sasha Wass, QC, cited that incident during her cross-examination of Andrew Fitch-Holland, Cairns’ former attorney and co-defendant, who is the final witness to be called in the four-week trial.
“Rod Marsh said I’m not having anything to do with Mr Cairns, he wouldn’t sign a cricket bat,” Wass said to Fitch-Holland.
Rumours about Cairns’ involvement in match-fixing had circulated ever since he was removed from the Indian Cricket League in October 2008, under the pretext of an injury.
Following Marsh’s action, Fitch-Holland had asked the ICC whether it had any evidence that Cairns was a match-fixer. It turned out that the governing body was not investigating him as the ICL was an unsanctioned tournament.
“It seemed that someone was saying something, because of the Rod Marsh incident, and we just thought ‘this can’t be allowed to continue’,” Fitch-Holland told the court.
“I took that to be confirmation from the ICC that they weren’t sniffing around Chris,” he added.
Marsh’s snub had occurred in 2009, one year before Lalit Modi, the founder of the Indian Premier League, had tweeted about Cairns’ alleged activities, an event which formed the basis of Cairns’ successful libel action against Modi in 2012.
Cairns, who denies two counts of perjury and perverting the course of justice, stands accused of having lied under oath to secure that court victory. Fitch-Holland denies one count of perverting the course of justice, after allegedly persuading Lou Vincent, Cairns’ former teammate, to provide a false witness statement.
Wass wanted to know if Fitch-Holland knew any reason why Modi would make a false accusation against Cairns.
“I assumed at the time he had misspoken, and he would correct it,” Fitch-Holland said.
At the libel trial in 2012, Cairns confirmed that he had “had it out” with Marsh over a drink at his house following the bat-signing incident.
Fitch-Holland, whom Wass tried to paint as a “cricket groupie”, admitted to having been “very pissed off” with Cairns in an email exchange in April 2013 following a lengthy delay in payment for his role as “lead adviser” during the legal action.
During a heated cross-examination, which involved an intervention from the judge, Fitch-Holland was also asked about an incident in which he had told a group, including Chris Harris: “Oh, he’s guilty, Cairnsy’s guilty”.
“I’m not for one second suggesting that Chris Harris is lying, and you know perfectly well that I’m not,” Fitch-Holland told Wass.
“It cannot have been about match-fixing, because quite simply that was not in my mind.”
Fitch-Holland is expected to continue giving evidence tomorrow.