NZ Cricket backs McCullum over Cairns trial evidence

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) New Zealand Cricket says it will support captain Brendon McCullum should he face a backlash over testimony he gave to the perjury trial of former teammate Chris Cairns.

Cairns was acquitted on Monday on charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice after a nine-week trial at the High Court in London, where McCullum was one of the leading witnesses for the prosecution.

Some of McCullum's evidence was called into question by Cairns' lawyer, Orlando Pownall, including why he took three years to report an alleged approach from Cairns over match-fixing, and why elements of his statement changed over time.

In an interview on Tuesday, Cairns challenged New Zealand media to raise those questions with McCullum, who leads New Zealand into a home test series against Sri Lanka next week.

NZC chairman Stuart Heal said his organization's priority was to ensure McCullum was not attacked over his involvement in Cairns' trial.

''Brendon is an employee of ours, so we've got a duty of care around him that makes sure he's in a safe working environment and free of harassment and all that humiliation stuff,'' Heal said. ''I hope it doesn't come to that, but of course we will support Brendon.

''We need him on the park leading our side and doing what he does best.''

Heal said it was too early to say whether Cairns, aged 45, might have a future role in NZC. Cairns said immediately after the not guilty verdicts were delivered on Monday that his reputation had been ''scorched,'' and he was unlikely to work in cricket again.

''What hasn't changed is Chris Cairns is one of our great players,'' Heal said. ''The Cairns family is one of our great cricketing families.''