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New Zealand cricket great Chris Cairns in intensive care in Sydney

The former New Zealand cricket great Chris Cairns is in intensive care at a Sydney hospital after suffering a life-threatening health problem.

Cairns, 51, had undergone surgery in Canberra for a reported aortic dissection – a tear in the body’s main artery – but was transferred to St Vincent’s hospital on Tuesday night.

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s on Wednesday said Cairns was in a “serious but stable condition” in its ICU.

Public support for a man regarded one of the best all-rounders of his era has poured in over the last 12 hours, including from the former Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum, who was a young member of the squad during Cairns’s most senior days.

“It’s a difficult subject to obviously talk about,” McCullum said on his SEN breakfast show. “We haven’t seen each other for quite a long time.” McCullum testified against Cairns in court before the latter was found not guilty of charges relating to alleged match-fixing.

“We’ve been reflecting on just how fine a cricketer he was when the news came through and what he did for the game and New Zealand cricket throughout his career as well. Our relationship is unimportant in the whole thing; the fact is that Chris is a father, and also a son to Lance and Sue. They’ve already had such tragedy in their life with the loss of Chris’s sister a long time ago as well.

“It’s a really difficult time for those people and I know the cricket community and all those who support the Cairns family will be suffering right now. Today my family and myself are thinking of those people who are suffering.”

New Zealand’s Cricket Players Association was unable to provide immediate comment. A New Zealand Cricket spokesperson said the board was respecting Cairns’s right to privacy and declined to comment.

Cairns played 62 Tests, 215 one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches for New Zealand between 1989 and 2006 before becoming a television pundit. His father, Lance, also represented New Zealand in cricket.

Cairns has lived in Canberra for several years after his marriage to an Australian, Melanie Croser, in 2010. After retiring from international cricket, he was the subject of allegations of match-fixing in India as captain of the Chandigarh Lions in the defunct Indian Cricket League in 2008.

He denied any wrongdoing and fought several legal battles to clear his name, winning a libel case against the former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi in 2012. In 2015 he was cleared of perjury in relation to the libel case after being charged by Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service.

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