Sydney: From a high of 2004, when Rahul Dravid pocketed the two most coveted awards and Irfan Pathan was adjudged Emerging Player of the Year, India had to be content with one representation each in the official World Test XI and World ODI XI teams.
Virender Sehwag made the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test XI of the year, with Dravid making the ODI XI. Ironically, the Team India vice-captain ' now the father of a bonny son ' only made the World XI for the three Super Series ODIs after Sachin Tendulkar pulled out.
That, of course, wasnít the sole peculiarity.
Itís no surprise that Ricky Ponting got the Test XI captaincy, but Maravan Atapattu got the job in the ODIs! Well, Atapattu wasnít considered good enough for the Super Series. ďIím not the sort to grumble,Ē he said but, surely, the selections must be logical.
Last year, Ponting (who hasnít been ďbotheredĒ by the post-Ashes criticism of his leadership) was named captain of both teams.
Where the Hyundai-sponsored awards proper (marketed, with good reason, as the Oscars of cricket) are concerned, Dinesh Karthik was the one Indian who survived the eliminations. But, clearly, he didnít stand a chance when one of the other contenders for the Emerging Player of the Year was the dashing Kevin Pietersen.
A South African till his non-selection as a Natal regular made him try his luck in England, Pietersen won the award handsomely (61 votes more than AB de Villiers). Plus, he took one more: ODI Player of the Year, beating Andrew Flintoff by 39 votes.
Talking to The Telegraph, Pietersen revealed that while he didnít exactly have a hero in cricket, he had been a ďfanĒ of Hansie Cronje. ďI donít blow things out of proportion... Thatís not me, which is why I havenít had a hero...Ē
Jacques Kallis, too, won two awards ' the biggest ones, even though he had to share the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the Player of the Year with Flintoff (86 votes each). He didnít, of course, have to share the Test Player of the Year award. In fact, Kallis won by the biggest margin of the evening ' 74 votes more than Glenn McGrath.
The joint win put the ICC in a spot of bother, but the sponsors graciously announced both Kallis and Flintoff would receive the upmarket Elantras.
Technically, the awards covered the period from August 1, 2004 till July 31 this year (which excluded the last four Ashes Tests), but it seemed the stupendous series did Ďinfluenceí the jury. Flintoff was outstanding in the Ashes, but prior to that'
The allrounder was embarrassed by that question: ďDonít remember what I did (special) before the Ashes...Ē
While Australian Simon Taufel again bagged the Umpire of the Year award (he got 16 votes more than Pakistanís Aleem Dar), the Spirit of Cricket award went to Michael Vaughanís England.
The following are excerpts from what the player-winners had to say:
Flintoff: I made a mess at the start of my career, but things have changed in the last couple of years... My wife (Rachel) has had a big influence... Of course, it isnít natural talent alone and Iíve worked very hard... On the field, in the gym... Thereís time to enjoy myself, too. Actually, I came (to the awards function) for the food! Credit for the Spirit of Cricket award goes to the captain ' Michael. He allows us to express ourselves, have fun and respect the game.
Kallis: I regret not getting a sixth consecutive Test hundred... Iíve had a nice year and, yes, (more) responsibility comes with age... Success has taught me a lesson ' that I should make the most when the going is good, because you donít know when the bad times can surface... I still see myself as a batsman-allrounder. The World XI didnít do well in the three ODIs, but the Super Test is an opportunity to set things right.
Pietersen: Iím flattered that I got two awards... I wasnít confident of getting the ODI Player of the Year one and had even taken off my blazer and was enjoying a drink! The last four-five months have been a whirlwind and I donít expect to be under more pressure because of the awards... I donít think of the occasion, donít get (burdened)... Itís fine if I do well and, if I donít, it wonít ever be for not having given 120 per cent. Leaving South Africa was a tough decision. But thatís the best Iíve made... I began as a bowler who batted. Now, Iím a batsman who canít bowl. So, I need to improve on my bowling. As for dropping catches, my problem is only with the red ball... Iím not making excuses, but will continue working towards becoming the best. The last 12-14 months have been like a dream come true.