Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke have jointly won the Allan Border Medal, the first time in the award's ten-year history that it has been shared. At the end of a period of decline for Australia, it was notable that it was their captain and vice-captain who stood at the top with 41 votes each.
The other man who has led the side in the past, Michael Hussey, was third with 38, while Mitchell Johnson, who had been the favourite in the lead-up to the ceremony, came in fourth with 30 votes. It was the fourth win for Ponting, who also collected the medal in 2004, 2006 and 2007, and the second for Clarke, who won the prize in 2005.
Clarke said it was especially pleasing to share the prize with Ponting, who had been a mentor over the past few years. That has been especially so over the past 12 months after Clarke took over the vice-captaincy from Adam Gilchrist, a role he has clearly relished.
"As soon as I've walked into the Australian team I've tried to learn as much as possible from Ricky Ponting," Clarke said. "Nothing has really changed to be honest. Being vice-captain has just brought me a lot closer."
During the voting period, which began on February 26 last year, Clarke was second to Simon Katich on Australia's Test run tally with 1019 at 56.61, including one century in each of Australia's four Test series. In the one-day format, Clarke took the reins as skipper on several occasions but his own form was below-par, with 209 runs at 16.07.
Ponting had a similarly lopsided season, and one that was by his lofty standards relatively quiet. But in a side that has struggled to maintain its No. 1 position, Ponting's 974 Test runs at 44.27 have been invaluable. He scored three centuries during the voting period but his efforts didn't always equate to Australian victories, as at the MCG in December, when he scored 101 and 99 in the loss to South Africa.
In one-day internationals, Ponting's form was less impressive and he made 309 runs at 25.75 with a highest score of 69. Ponting was visibly surprised when he was announced as one of the winners and he said he had expected Clarke or Johnson to take out the honour.
"This is an amazing shock to me," Ponting said. "I was sitting back at the table tonight and waiting for Pup or Mitch to get up here tonight and accept the award. As we all know it's been an up-and-down year for the team. Everybody at the moment is writing us off but I know deep down in my heart that we're not very far away at all.
"It's been an amazing time with some of our greats leaving the team, some obviously very young and exciting players coming into the team. It's an amazing challenge for me and certainly for Michael to keep leading this team in the right direction, hopefully showing some direction and passing on some experience to the younger guys."
Clarke was also named the Test Player of the Year for the first time, while Nathan Bracken was rewarded for his outstanding limited-overs bowling form with his first One-Day International Player of the Year title. In the Test category, Clarke won with 12 votes from Ponting and Simon Katich, who were in joint second with 10.
Bracken picked up his one-day award thanks to a one-vote buffer from the second-placed Hussey, who himself was one vote clear of Shaun Marsh in third. Bracken played 16 of Australia's 17 ODIs during the voting period and he collected 22 wickets at 24.50, with an economy rate of 4.09. He was the Player of the Series in last year's CB Series against Sri Lanka and India.
He began the voting period with his best bowling for the year, when he collected 4 for 29 against Sri Lanka at the MCG. Bracken's season stayed strong after that and he had a particularly productive tour of the West Indies, where he picked up eight wickets at 19.75 and helped the side complete a 5-0 whitewash.
Bracken has developed a formidable reputation as a death bowler and he said it was a role he enjoyed. "It's good fun, it's something that I really enjoy doing," Bracken said upon receiving his trophy. "I guess it's good being in control at the end."