MONTE CARLO - Australia's cricketers were named the best team in world sport at sport's Oscars here tonight while Ian Thorpe was beaten to the individual gong by Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher.
Test captain Steve Waugh collected the trophy at a lavish Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Monte Carlo in front of some of the world's all-time great athletes as well as celebrities from film, fashion and music.
Schumacher's victory, however, was swathed in controversy two days after he was booed onto the podium at the Austrian grand prix.
The German won the race and extended his lead in the drivers' championship when he passed Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello, who was instructed by team bosses metres from the chequered flag to slow down and hand the race to Schumacher.
Voting for the award, which is based on sportsmanship as much as results, however, was on performances in the 12 months until February and had closed last month.
Organisers were spared any further embarrassment when the Australian cricketers held out Ferrari in the teams category.
"It's a great thrill and tremendous honour to win this," Waugh said.
"It's a great achievement, we've worked hard for it.
"Being here tonight with all those sports legends and all these stars, well it has simply been a great honour and hopefully we can come back again."
With the vast majority of the star studded crowd and even most of the 44 members of the Laureus Sports Academy unfamiliar with cricket, Waugh hoped tonight's award would lift the game's exposure internationally.
"For cricket to prosper we need more countries playing," he said. "And we need to spread the word out there and spread cricket to the world."
Australia asserted its dominance of world cricket last year, taking the inaugural ICC world Test championship, extending its record winning run to 16 Tests and completing series wins over the West Indies and England while losing 2-1 to India and drawing 0-0 with New Zealand.
Schumacher won nine grands prix on his way to last year's world championship and was rated by Thorpe, who won six world swimming titles last year, as the best sportsman on the planet.
The other finalists were triple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, world 100m champion Maurice Greene and world golf No.1 Tiger Woods, who won the 2000 and 2001 awards.
French and Australian Open tennis champion Jennifer Capriati was named Sportswoman of the Year following her Comeback of the Year crown last year.
Capriati beat Wimbledon and US Open title holder Venus Williams, Dutch world swimming champion Inge de Bruijn, world pole vault champion Stacy Dragila and golfer Annika Sorenstam.
Pat Rafter's conqueror in last year's Wimbledon final, Goran Ivanisevic, was awarded Comeback of the Year for winning the title with a world ranking of 125 and a wildcard entry to the tournament.
Colombian Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya was voted Best Newcomer, Brazilian skateboarder Bob Burnquist was Alternative Sportsperson of the Year and Dutch wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer the Sportsperson of the Year With a Disability.