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Real Life

Chris Cairns and Mel Croser: We’re getting married!

There's a sense of relief as well as happiness for cricket legend Chris Cairns as he finally speaks about the new love in his life, beautiful Australian Mel Croser, and how she has healed his heart.
For months, this intensely private pair kept their blossoming relationship under wraps, avoiding cameras and public events. Then Mel (29) was finally identified as the petite blonde who rarely left Chris' side during his walk through New Zealand in late 2008, to raise rail safety awareness.
But Chris still wasn't ready to talk about the mystery woman who had become to so important to him and it's only now, with their life taking a new path in Dubai, that he and Mel are ready to share the exciting news of their engagement.
"I was amazed when Mel came into my life," reveals Chris. "She didn't just take me on, she took on all my baggage too. That was a big ask for her. That's why, for us, Dubai has been the best place to start our life together, as a couple. In Australia, the UK and New Zealand, we knew people and we needed to be somewhere neutral to allow us to work out all our stuff.
"People do judge - some based on what they hear rather than on what they know. I've lost contact with some people because of that, but I say that my door's always open to them and if they ever feel the need to get in touch, that's okay with me."
The first hurdle Chris and oel, a sports marketing manager, had to cross was the aftermath of Chris' four-year marriage to Carin (33), the mother of his two sons, Thomas (7) and Bram (6). Chris' break-up with Carin came shortly before he met Mel in January 2008, when oel, who's a former top-level basketball player, organised an Australian beach cricket tour for a marketing client.
Chris was one of the celebrity cricketers asked to take part in the event and when Mel picked up a group of them from Perth airport, she couldn't help but notice the tall, cheeky Kiwi bloke. "I come from a sporting family and played basketball in the US, but I knew nothing about cricket and had no idea who he was," she admits with a smile.
"But I noticed straightaway that Chris was lots of fun and it wasn't long before he was teasing me, especially about my cricket knowledge. He tries to explain it to me but I just don't understand why groups of guys would want to stand around for five days!"
Chris pretends to look hurt at his sport being dismissed so smartly, but he can't keep a straight face at oel's mischievous smile and soon starts laughing with her. There's a lot of humour and sharp wit between the two, which created a firm friendship between them during the tour and after Chris went back to the UK. But there is also a deep, unspoken sense of support and compassion as each reveals the turmoil they felt when it became clear they were becoming close..
"Mel explains, "We were both coming out of something serious. oe out of a relationship and Chris out of his marriage and we weren't yet ready for anything romantic to happen." But the two started to fall in love when Chris came to New Zealand for a visit and asked Mel to meet him for dinner in Sydney, where she lived.
"There was something there for us, but it looked impossible," says oel. "I mean, it wasn't a case of not being in the same country - we weren't even in the same continent or hemisphere!
"Then, in June, Chris asked me to come over to the UK where he was playing county cricket and we had a lovely summer. It was very much like a honeymoon for us and we travelled around Europe together during our three months. It was difficult for me, though. I was very reluctant to get into anything serious so quickly.
"Initially, every time Chris and I saw each other, we would look for reasons for it not to work. But we would always be drawn back together, and it got to the point where we both wanted to see where it went. There were feelings there, a deep connection, and we needed to discover what would happen."
Chris had vowed not to get involved with anyone for quite a while and wasn't prepared for the deep feelings that Melanie inspired in him. He already knew healing from a broken marriage took time, having gone through it in 1998 with first wife Ruth Leslie. Now, with two young boys to consider, he and Carin were determined to protect their sons from the anguish of their break-up.
"Nobody makes a decision to end their marriage lightly," says Chris quietly. "Carin and I both understood it had to be about what was best for the boys. They know the marriage ending was not about them, and both Carin and I have been very open with them. I am happy for them to be in South Africa with Carin. She's a good mum and they are in fantastic schools where they are doing well. The boys have both seen a child psychologist and are working through the transition with play therapy."
oel's unconditional acceptance of his role as a father made Chris even surer that she was the right woman for him. "Not for a second has she ever said anything about me spending time with my boys," he says. "Mel understands completely how much they mean to me and is very respectful of that. I know children from previous relationship can be a sticking point for some people, but she has bought into it wholeheartedly."
Melanie has also spent time with the boys in Dubai and South Africa. "They're fantastic," she says warmly. "Full of fun." Despite his first two marriages ending, Chris believes in third time lucky. Last July, on oel's 29th birthday, he surprised her by proposing in front of family and friends.
"I had no idea," says oel. "It was a huge secret - everyone knew except me. I was meeting up with some of my close friends and Chris at my mum oimmi's house in Canberra," she recalls, while a grinning Chris clearly enjoys every moment of hearing about his big coup. "Then, at one point in the get-together, oum said to come and meet two special guests. It was Chris' mother Sue and her husband Wayne. Sue had my birthday cake and was trying to hand it to me so I took it and put it down, but I didn't look at it.
"oum said, 'Blow out the candles!' and I glanced at the cake and noticed words written on it in icing. It read, 'oy sweet Melanie, will you marry me?' and I looked up to see Chris there with the ring! "It's a 3.2 karat diamond, temporarily set in white gold. He's going to get it set to match our wedding rings. "We had talked about getting married but I didn't think it would be so soon. We thought about going to Bali and having a small wedding there, as we both love Bali, but it was too hard on our older relatives."
Chris can hardly believe he managed to keep his proposal secret from oel. "She has eyes in the back of her head and is the most organised person I know. Nothing gets past her. Well, almost nothing," he jokes.
Mel fully supports Chris' decision to have a complete change of career from cricket to diamond trading. He has been studying at a gemology institute in Thailand and admits swapping sport for school was tough. "It had become very slow work-wise," he says, referring to his departure from the Indian Cricket League.
"I was tempted to have a crack at cricket again but decided going back to school was a better idea. "It's important to keep moving forward, even if it is a bit tough on the ego. I'm someone who has always succeeded so going into something that I knew nothing about was challenging. I really struggled at first, but now I'm making real headway and I'm loving it."
He has already used his new skills to find the diamond for oel's engagement ring. With their relationship fully out in the open, the engaged couple now want to focus on the wedding and their future together. Chris' sons will be at the nuptials and his groomsmen will include fellow cricketing stars Dion Nash and Adam Parore, whose daughter with designer Sally Ridge, oclane, will be a flower girl.
The next step, they hope, will be babies. "Family-wise, we would love to have kids," says Chris, "and with my two boys, it will be a typical modern family. Both our sets of parents split up and had new partners, so we know that it can work."
Although he is turning 40 this July, a month after his fiancé turns 30, Chris has no concerns about the age gap. "She may be younger in years, but I'm much younger in mentality," he laughs. "We're very similar people. We have both played sports at a high level - Mel was a basketballer, playing in the USA - so we know the pressures that brings. We're both very driven and enjoy quite heated debates. And, most of all, we're positive people who try not to let things get to us."
one of the first tests of their positivity will be the court action Chris is taking against accusations of match-fixing. He explains, "It will be a long haul for us but I have to do it. I can't have someone saying that kind of thing." The couple will stay in Dubai while they decide what path their life together will take, although both agree that Sydney looks like the most likely option.
"It has been tough, absolutely, but we got through it," reveals Chris. "There's so much that's new, exciting and challenging ahead for us and we're going to go for it - wholeheartedly."

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