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February 15, 2010
Shane Watson has completed his rise in importance to Australia in all three formats by being named the Allan Border Medallist for 2010. In a year in which Watson established himself as a Test opening batsman while remaining a key top-order man in the limited-overs game, he finished with 125 votes and beat the second-placed Michael Clarke (90), while Mitchell Johnson came third with 87 votes.
Watson was also named Australia's One-Day International Player of the Year and his five-day opening partner Simon Katich took out the Test title. The recognition of his peers, media and umpires as Australia's best player over the past 12 months was a major landmark for Watson, who had previously battled injuries for nearly a decade and struggled to become a full-time member of Australia's team.
A clearly emotional Watson was close to tears as he accepted a prize that seemed a world away while he was battling injuries to nearly every part of his body over the past eight years. "It's been an awesome ride," Watson said. "It's very overwhelming actually to have received this award."
Watson made special mention of the work put in by Cricket Australia's medical staff, as well as the sports physio Victor Popov, who has helped Watson remain free of serious injuries for the past couple of years. Watson said he had never considered giving up cricket but did think about abandoning his bowling in an effort to reduce the stress on his body.
"I'm very surprised at times that they [the selectors] hadn't lost faith in me," Watson said. "I was always doing everything I possibly could to try and instill that faith but unfortunately every time I felt like I was going all right I'd break down with injury.
"There was a time when I definitely thought there was a chance I was going to have to give up bowling and just be a batsman. But that was only really for a couple of weeks and then it was one guy's guidance and time and expertise that really made me turn that thinking around and just break down me as an athlete and a person."
Watson's value as a one-day opener has been clear for at least 18 months and culminated in him delivering Australia the Champions Trophy in South Africa last year, when he scored centuries in both the semi-final win over England and the final triumph over New Zealand. But it was in the Test arena that Watson provided the biggest surprise over the past year, when he stepped in to replace the out-of-form opener Phillip Hughes during the Ashes tour.
Questions were raised about his ability to face the new ball and he answered them in the best possible way, with 849 Test runs at 56.60 including one century during his nine Tests at the top of the order. He has also offered Ricky Ponting a useful fifth bowling option and since his Ashes return he has taken 13 Test wickets at 29.61.
Following a series of scores frustratingly close to triple figures - 96, 89 and 93 - he finally broke through for his first Test century in a Man-of-the-Match effort during the win over Pakistan in the Boxing Day Test. In the voting period for the one-day international prize, Watson was the third-leading run scorer and the third-leading wicket taker, and won the award with 33 votes from Michael Hussey on 25 and Clarke on 21.
Katich's win in the Test category gave him just reward for being Australia's leading run scorer during the voting period. Katich scored 1114 runs at 48.43 from 13 Tests and edged out Johnson with 10 votes and Watson and Clarke, who tied for third with nine votes each.
Katich scored Test centuries in Durban, Cardiff and Hobart during the past 12 months, as well as a string of scores in the 90s during the home Tests against West Indies and Pakistan. Since returning to the Test team on the 2008 tour of the West Indies, Katich has scored seven hundreds and has averaged 52.16. It was only an injury to Matthew Hayden on that trip that opened the door for Katich's Test return after nearly three years out of the team.
"I guess I was pretty fortunate that I got another chance courtesy of Haydos' Achilles," Katich said. "If he hadn't got injured I don't think I would have played Test cricket again, so I am just grateful for the opportunity from the selectors and Ricky and I have just tried to make the most of it this time around."
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