Johnson and Gambhir scoop top awards
Mitchell Johnson capped a tumultuous year by becoming the sixth winner of the prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, after being named as the ICC World Player of the Year at cricket's annual awards ceremony in Johannesburg. Johnson, who shot to prominence during Australia's memorable series win in South Africa in February and March, claimed the title ahead of his fellow nominees, Gautam Gambhir, Andrew Strauss and MS Dhoni.
Johnson was a surprise choice for the title, not least because of the massive and very public crisis of confidence he suffered during Australia's Ashes defeat in England, particularly in the pivotal second Test at Lord's which England went on to win after Johnson's first-day figures of 2 for 107 in 19 overs. But when he got his game right he was nigh on unplayable, as his sensational performances against South Africa demonstrated. With 80 wickets in 17 matches, he was the most prolific strike bowler of the year, and he also recorded his maiden Test century and an unbeaten 96 against South Africa.
"I'm really blown away," said Johnson. "I am just surprised to be up here. It has been a great 12 months for our side. We have lost some wonderful players in recent years and we have been rebuilding with some young guys in the team and we have played together well."
India's star opener, Gambhir, was named as Test Player of the Year, after an impressive haul of 1269 runs at 84.60 in the eight Tests during the qualification period. "It's been a dream run for me. I never thought it could be like this but life has changed for me and I am very happy," said Gambhir. "As a unit we have played very well and I am just glad to contribute to the overall success of the team."
Dhoni retained his title of ODI Player of the Year, seeing off competition from his team-mates, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag, as well as West Indies' Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Dhoni played 24 ODIs during the voting period, scoring 967 runs at an average of 60.43 and strike-rate of 86.63, and also claimed 26 dismissals as he led India to 17 victories including a 5-0 demolition of England.
Tillakaratne Dilshan was a worthy winner of the Twenty20 International Performance of the Year award, after capping a sensational World Twenty20 tournament in England in June with a show-stealing 96 off 57 balls against West Indies in the semi-final. His performance at The Oval, in which no other Sri Lanka batsman managed more than 24, included two sixes and 12 fours, and though Sri Lanka went on to lose the final to Pakistan, Dilshan was nevertheless named as the Man of the Tournament, with a total of 317 runs at 52.83.
Dilshan is perhaps most notable for his signature "Dilscoop" shot - a flick-shot over his, and the keeper's, heads - and as he accepted his award he was equally proud to have coined a new term in cricket's lexicon. "I'm really proud of myself for having a new shot named after me," he said. "That shot has given me confidence. If I am under pressure I can play that shot and put the pressure back on the bowlers."
Australia's fast bowler, Peter Siddle, was named as the Emerging Player of the Year, after claiming 49 wickets at 28.93 in the 12 matches since his debut at Mohali in October 2008, including five-wicket hauls against South Africa at Sydney and England at Headingley, both of which led to memorable victories. Siddle beat his fellow Australia seamer, Ben Hilfenhaus, to the award, as well as England's Graham Onions and New Zealand's Jesse Ryder.
New Zealand's cricketers were considered to have conducted themselves better on the field than any other nation in 2008-09, as they claimed the Spirit of Cricket award for the second time, having also won during the inaugural Awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London in 2004. The judgement was made by the ICC's umpires and match referees, in conjunction with the ten full-member captains, and Daniel Vettori accepted the accolade on behalf of his colleagues, only 48 hours after reversing a run-out appeal against Paul Collingwood in their must-win group match against England.
"I think most teams within world cricket aspire to the intangible notion of the Spirit of Cricket," said Vettori. "It's not easy to define but I think when you get out on the field of play most guys know where that line is and most play the game in the right way. If we can couple the Spirit of Cricket award with the ICC Champions Trophy then we will be very happy indeed."
Pakistan's Aleem Dar ended Simon Taufel's monopoly to claim the Umpire of the Year award. It was the first time that anyone other than Taufel had picked up the accolade in the six years that the ceremony has taken place.
South Africa's spearhead, Dale Steyn, is the only player to retain his place in the World Test Team of the Year, with last year's captain, Graeme Smith, missing the cut to accommodate World Player of the Year nominees Gambhir and Strauss at the top of the order. Dhoni takes over as captain; AB de Villiers, Sachin Tendulkar and Thilan Samaraweera make up the middle-order, while Bangladesh's impressive allrounder, Shakib al Hasan, is chosen as the spin option alongside three quicks in Johnson, Steyn and Stuart Broad.
Six countries were also represented in the World ODI team, and just as with the Test side, there's only one survivor from the XI named 12 months ago. Dhoni was last year's wicketkeeper, and now he is captain as well, having been picked alongside his team-mates Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh.
Three Sri Lankans - Dilshan, Ajantha Mendis and Nuwan Kulasekara - also feature, as well as two Englishmen, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, neither of whom have played a part in the side's remarkable revival during the Champions Trophy. West Indies' Chris Gayle, Pakistan's death-overs specialist Umar Gul, and New Zealand's surprise package, Martin Guptill, make up the numbers.
England's women - World Champions in 50-over and 20-over cricket this year, were rewarded for their dominance when their star player, Clare Taylor, was named as the Women's Player of the Year. Taylor, 33, scored 565 runs in 18 ODIs an average of 70.62, and 230 runs at a lofty 115.00 in England's six-match World Twenty20 campaign.
Ireland's captain, Will Porterfield, was named as the Associate Player of the Year, after leading his side to nine ODI victories in 11 fixtures in a memorable season that also included qualification for the Super Eights stage of the World Twenty20.
World Test Team of the Year: Gautam Gambhir (India), Andrew Strauss (England), AB de Villiers (South Africa), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Thilan Samaraweera (Sri Lanka), Michael Clarke (Australia), MS Dhoni (India, capt & wk), Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh), Mitchell Johnson (Australia), Stuart Broad (England), Dale Steyn (South Africa), Harbhajan Singh (India, 12th man)
World ODI team of the year: Virender Sehwag (Ind), Chris Gayle (WI), Kevin Pietersen (Eng), Tillakaratne Dilshan (SL), Yuvraj Singh (Ind), Martin Guptill (NZ), MS Dhoni (Ind, captain, WK), Andrew Flintoff (Eng), Nuwan Kulasekara (SL), Ajantha Mendis (SL), Umar Gul (Pak), 12th man: Thilan Thushara (SL)
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo