Ponting scoops Allan Border Medal
Ricky Ponting with the Allan Border Medal
Ricky Ponting couldn't quite achieve an unprecedented clean sweep at the Allan Border Medal awards in Melbourne, but he still enjoyed a successful evening as the elite of Australian cricket gathered to celebrate their successes of the past 12 months.
The Australian team flies out to Sri Lanka on Saturday, and that series will be Ponting's first as Test captain. It is therefore appropriate that he has been recognised as Australia's best Test cricketer of the past year, as well as their most valuable overall player.
Ponting's identity as the Allan Border Medal-winner was one of the worst-kept secrets in Australian sport. The new world-record-holder Matthew Hayden, who didn't have too bad a year himself, said last week that the decision was a foregone conclusion. And so it proved, as Ponting secured a total of 139 votes, 48 more than Hayden in second position, and almost double the number polled by Adam Gilchrist (70) in third.
Ponting, who was last year's Test player of the year, scored 1503 runs at an average of 100.20 in 2003. He also became the first player since Don Bradman to score three double hundreds in a single year. His one-day form was no less prolific, and he had been widely tipped to secure all three major categories. In the end, however, he was pipped to the one-day post by Gilchrist, who made 1463 runs in a period that began with the opening fixture of last year's World Cup, at a phenomenal strike rate of 105.63 and an average of 45.71.
In a closely-fought category, Gilchrist polled 28 votes to finish four ahead of Brett Lee and Ponting, and five ahead of Andrew Symonds. Gilchrist secured the award in the second-last game of Australia's season, the first final against India at the MCG on February 6. He scored two centuries in the past year, with a highest score of 172 against Zimbabwe in the VB Series, as well as 60 catches and a stumping.
Ponting, who was the only man to play in all 37 matches, made 1317 runs at 43.90, including his World Cup-winning innings of 140 not out, while Lee was Australia's top wicket-taker with 49 at an average of 19.87, but his absence from the recent tri-series in India scuppered his prospects of the award. Votes were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis by a panel of former cricketers and media representatives.
The evening also featured a tribute to David Hookes, who died last month, while the former Test players Alan Davidson and Hugh Trumble were officially induced into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. The women's player of the year award went to their fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick; New South Wales' Simon Katich was named as the State player of the year, while South Australia's paceman Shaun Tait picked up the Bradman award as the best young cricketer of the year.
Ponting is the fifth winner of the Allan Border Medal, following in the footsteps of Glenn McGrath (2000), Steve Waugh (2001), Hayden (2002) and Gilchrist (2003).