|Michael Clarke and Alan Border|
There were surprises. Shelley Nitschke herself seemed surprised, even shocked, to be named Women's International Cricketer of the Year for the fourth year running after retiring eight months ago but lopsided scheduling meant she played in two thirds of the games used for qualification. Its a testament to her domination of the game that she again out-polled other leading contenders Lisa Sthalekar and Alex Blackwell and also a comment on her all round ability which saw her score more than 3000 runs and take more than 150 wickets in her career in international cricket.
Richie Benaud won the award for the best comment of the night and Mark Nicholas the worst. Benaud, during his presentation speech inducting Shane Warne into the Hall of Fame, described watching "the Gatting ball" as "the most fun I've had in my life (pause) whilst holding a microphone." Nicholas, the smarmy, perfectly polished face of Channel 9 Cricket, in one sentence presented all the problems women's sport has still to confront and defeat in achieving parity of coverage in sport. Introducing Belinda Clark, one of the greatest sportspeople Australia has produced and worthy by deed alone to be treated with respect, Nicholas made a comment about the Southern Stars which included "and aren't they lovely." It was the low point of the evening. A lot of his work was self-indulgent, as it always is and its little wonder he was no friend of Peter Roebuck when the two captained Hampshire and Somerset. Roebuck's steely and at times irascible integrity is an anathema to Nicholas' over produced, super smooth image which is always tuned to himself not his subject. Just a little tired of the walking monologues.
Warne received his overdue gong, with kiddywinkles and Mum and Dad present but a notable part of his celebrity missing. His acceptance speech, a six minute ramble which batted back and forth like a Wimbledon final, finally settled on the conclusion that his life in cricket had been fun. Fair enough but it was another example of why Warnie should wander off to the beautiful people and leave the cricket alone. He was a wonderful player - top one percent stuff - and a canny, difficult opponent but when he opens his mouth he's proof that you can take the boy out of St Kilda but ... the only Nitschke he's heard of had just won an award.
Holding the event on the same day as the Oscars, the frocking up and references made to Hollywood by the tall and elegant Brendan Julian did nothing to help the evening. It was like the cultural cringe of the Australian film industry in the 1970's. Why?
Michael Clarke spoke very well in accepting the AB Medal, as he does regularly now. The humility which many doubted existed in the lad from Liverpool has a clear, permanent and genuine home. Very impressive.
The other surprise for the evening was how far up the Border Medal table James Pattinson finished. His performances were strong but limited to only 4 Tests and a couple of ODI's and T20's. The countback in the Test award was also odd. As good as Ponting was, Clarke was clearly better.