Wellington - New Zealand great Chris Cairns on Tuesday denied he is alleged match-fixing kingpin "Player X", instead blaming "dark forces" for placing him at the centre of an International Cricket Council investigation.
Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum and former batsman Lou Vincent have both told ICC investigators that Player X approached them to fix matches, according to leaked testimony from the pair, but the mystery cricketer has not been publicly named.
McCullum testified that he rejected Player X's overtures in 2008, while Vincent has reportedly agreed to provide evidence about his part in a match-fixing plot in a bid to avoid prosecution.
Vincent described Player X in his testimony as "a world-famous international", while McCullum said he was "a hero who became a friend" and had offered him up to 107,000 pounds (US$180,000) a match to underperform.
Amid widespread speculation about the identity of Player X, Cairns issued a statement to the Dominion Post newspaper denying it was him.
"It is well known that the ICC/ACSU (Anti-Corruption and Security Unit) has been investigating allegations of corruption and my name has been linked by others to these allegations. I am being asked whether I am Player X," he said.
"Based on the limited information I have received during this investigation, I believe it is being alleged that I am that player. These allegations against me are a complete lie."Cairns has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and challenged the ICC to produce its evidence so he can respond, accusing the game's governing body of orchestrating media leaks to smear his reputation.
The 43-year-old retired from international cricket in 2004 after becoming one of only 12 players in Test history to score the all-rounders' double of 200 wickets and 3 000 runs.
In 2012, he won 90 000 pounds in a libel action against former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi in London over a tweet alleging he was involved in match-fixing.
Cairns said he had already proved in court that he was not a match-fixer and urged people to reserve judgement on him until all facts were out in the open.
"I believe there are dark forces at play. These forces have long arms, deep pockets and great influence," he told the Dominion Post.
"I acknowledge that recently I have upset some powerful people in the world of cricket, including raising my own concerns about the state of the game. I believe I am playing the price for that now."
New Zealand Cricket has clarified that McCullum is not under investigation for match-fixing, while also expressing dismay his testimony was made public and calling on the ICC to investigate how it was leaked to the media.
The batsman, who gained the national captaincy in late 2012 and this year became the first Kiwi to hit a Test triple century, said he was "shell-shocked" after the approach from Player X and he had never fixed a match.
"(X) said that the 'Big Boys' in international cricket were doing it and he didn't want me to miss out," Britain's Daily Mail online Monday reported him as saying.
"I am sure that he mentioned names to me but I cannot remember, although I seem to think that X mainly mentioned Asian cricketers."
The match-fixing allegations involving Vincent allegedly occurred from 2008-2012 in at least five countries.
The ICC has provided few details beyond confirming an investigation is underway, while NZC chief executive David White said Monday that he could not go into specifics for fear of jeopardising the investigation.