Award time

CHEQUES and glittering trophies were presented to leading cricketers, who had excelled in their vocation over a 12-month period, at two awards functions in Mumbai on the last two days of October.

G. VISWANATH

Ricky Ponting with the Ceat `Cricketer of the Year' award. He was also adjudged the `Best Batsman' by Ceat. Wisden, too named him as its `Cricketer of the Year.' -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE-

CHEQUES and glittering trophies were presented to leading cricketers, who had excelled in their vocation over a 12-month period, at two awards functions in Mumbai on the last two days of October. Most of the cricketers had made an impact either consistently during the period under consideration or caught the imagination of the cricketing world in a particular tournament. Two well-known Indian legends, Sunil Gavaskar and Vijay Hazare's contribution to Indian cricket was also recognised. They were the toast at the Ceat Cricket Ratings Awards function at the Taj Mahal hotel.

The present day cricketers are lucky, unlike the players of the past. When Sir Don Bradman notched up centuries and plundered runs off the England bowlers and when Sir Gary Sobers was dishing up his masterly all-round displays, the paying public applauded their efforts at the grounds and that was it. In England, the Man of the Match received a champagne bottle. Elsewhere in the world only a small amount of cash was given as reward for an outstanding performance in a Test match. The cricketers accepted whatever was given to them and acknowledged it.

With the changing times cricket has moved forward fast in many ways. It has prospered in Asia and efforts are on to make it a truly global sport. The game appealed to the leading business houses of the world that contributed to its development. In India the BCCI established a policy for awarding Benefit Matches.

The dedicated awards based on performance and points that began in India became an addition. Several corporates appeared on the scene in order to identify themselves and their products with the game of cricket. Ceat roped in people like Gavaskar, Ian Chappell and Clive Lloyd in their Governing Council and now the company has Sanjay Manjrekar as the Director of the Cricket Ratings awards.

Rahul Dravid, the Wisden `Cricketer of the Year'. -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE.-

At the launch of the Ceat Awards, Gavaskar highlighted a point that apart from the nice-looking trophies that find a place in the showcases of the cricketers' homes, the cash component is an important ingredient of these Awards.

The two functions held in a city that has contributed immensely to Indian cricket brought some of the leading cricketers, past and present, together. Shane Warne came from Australia with his wife to receive the Electrolux Wisden best bowling performance award from Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan. Warne obviously was thrilled. He took a banned substance before the World Cup began in South Africa and was promptly prevented by Cricket Australia from playing for 12 months.

Australia's captain for one-day matches, Ricky Ponting, was the star at the NCPA and the Taj. He was adjudged the `Wisden Cricketer of the Year' for his consistent showing in Tests and one-day internationals. The Ceat Ratings adjudged him the winner of the `Best Batsman' and `Cricketer of the Year' prizes. His teammate, Andy Bichel, was declared the `Best Allrounder', for his singlehanded effort against England in the World Cup match at Port Elizabeth.

Vijay Hazare receives the Ceat `Lifetime Achievement' award from Bishan Singh Bedi. -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE.-

Former South Africa coach Bob Woolmer was asked whom he would pick as the `Best Young Cricketer' (Under - 23) from among South African captain Graeme Smith, West Indian Omari Banks and England's James Anderson. "All are fine cricketers. They are good and hold promise,'' he said. The jury's vote went to Smith, who was in Pakistan and hence could not be present at the function.

Similarly, the England captain Michael Vaughan received the Wisden `Best Batsman' award from Pakistan's Wasim Akram in Chittagong. Vaughan had a fantastic summer against Sri Lanka and India and an equally great winter against Australia.

India's own pride and joy, Sachin Tendulkar, was given a special award for the `Best Moment of the World Cup'. His upper cut six over point off Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar was voted the best. Wisden brought Akhtar to Mumbai to present the trophy to Tendulkar.

At the Ceat function, the highlight was Gavaskar being made the `Ceat Legend for Life'. Ian Chappell read the citation and Allan Border gave Gavaskar the trophy. The three posed for a nice picture, one for the albums.

But the man who received two standing ovations, the first spontaneously and the second urged by journalist, author and socialite, Shobha De, was Vijay Hazare. His century in each innings against Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller in the 1947-48 series was recalled and the grand old man of Indian cricket was helped on to the stage to receive the award and cheque from Bishan Singh Bedi, who said that he would travel any distance to see Hazare.

All were happy to be part of the show compered by Mark Nicholas and Manasi Scott at the NCPA and Charu Sharma and Mandira Bedi at the Taj. The packed Central Room at the Taj was offered plenty of entertainment. But as Ricky Ponting said: "It's nice to receive awards. But one has to get on with the game.'' That's how it should be. "They should not get carried away,'' said Ian Chappell.

The Electrolux Wisden awards: International Cricketer of the Year: Ricky Ponting, Australia. Best Batting Performance: Michael Vaughan (183 v Australia, Sydney). Best Bowling Performance: Shane Warne: seven for 94 v Pakistan, Colombo. Young Cricketer: Graeme Smith (South Africa). Best All-round Performance: Andy Bichel (Australia, 7 for 20 and 34 not out against England, World Cup in South Africa), ESPN-STAR's Best World Cup Moment: Sachin Tendulkar (6 off Shoaib Akhtar, World Cup in South Africa). Indian Cricketer of the Year (People's choice): Rahul Dravid.

Ceat Cricket Ratings Awards: Ricky Ponting: International Cricketer of the Year and Best Batsman. Virender Sehwag: Best Fielder. Harbhajan Singh: Best Bowler. Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif: Best Partnership. Australia: Best Team. Vijay Hazare: Lifetime Achievement and Sunil Gavaskar: Ceat Legend.