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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Cricket's Oscars stir the emotions
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at Alexandra Palace, London

Indian TV gets a slice of Andrew Flintoff
Indian television gets a slice of England star Andrew Flintoff

When Australia's Simon Taufel came over a bit Gwyneth Paltrow-like on receiving the inaugural award for best umpire, cricket's first Oscars night got that little bit of schmaltz it needed.

Taufel may not actually have burst into tears but he thanked the brotherhood of fellow umpires, with heartfelt mention of old stagers 'Shep' and 'Buck' - "all the guys out there who have helped me and shown me the ropes."

And there was definitely some emotion as the words caught in his throat.

The International Cricket Council had paired debonair English TV presenter Mark Nicholas, a former captain of Hampshire, with Indian actress Mandira Bedi to act as joint Masters of Ceremonies.

It was a curious combination - Nicholas suave and unruffled, Bedi flippant and at times unashamedly flirtatious.

Australia's Ricky Ponting and wife Rhiannon arrive for the ceremony
Australia's Ricky Ponting and wife Rhiannon arrive for the ceremony

It has to be said she took a particular liking to England's current hero Andrew Flintoff and former South African great Barry Richards, a member of the voting 'Academy'.

But at least she helped ensure the night was nowhere near as long as the Hollywood version - the awards themselves lasted barely 90 minutes.

Flintoff received the first big award of the night when he picked up the one-day Player of the Year, beating a trio of brilliant batsmen in Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar.

Considering he was awake for most of the previous night to attend the birth of his first child, it was impressive that he hung around so long to give interviews.

Steve Harmison, his best buddy in the England side, joked: "It's been a massive 24 hours for Andrew but he's got a hard 20 years in front of him."

With two young daughters of his own, Harmison should know.

Australian captain Ponting, who is often asked to answer some peculiar questions on these occasions, was as courteous as ever.

Pakistan's Younis Khan and English umpire David Shepherd
Pakistan's Younis Khan and English umpire David Shepherd

And in a neat bit of PR for the ICC, he said the awards were a jolly good thing.

"It's not very often in this game that you are recognised as individuals," he said. "Tonight is about being recognised for all the hard work you've put in over the course of the year."

Rahul Dravid, by far the biggest winner on the night with two individual awards, was eloquent, humble and light-hearted enough to crack a decent joke.

"It might stop people burning a few effigies of me after some of our recent results," he quipped.

His Indian side are, as it happens, losing most of their matches in one-day internationals at present.

All in all, cricket came over pretty well on a chilly night in north London - although inside the main hall the guests sweated as they tucked into food by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White.

Somebody had turned the heating on too high, and another notable glitch came when Dravid was due to be presented with the keys to a new Hyundai motor by the Indian boss of the Korean motor company.

Sadly, the keys were not available... perhaps the gleaming silver car is still rotating forlornly on its turntable?

Interview: Andrew Flintoff

Interview: India's Rahul Dravid

Flintoff wins one-day award
07 Sep 04  |  Cricket
Dravid on top of the world
08 Sep 04  |  Cricket
Daughter delights Flintoff
06 Sep 04  |  Cricket
Harmison tops Test ratings
21 Aug 04  |  England
Benaud chairs awards judges
04 Aug 04  |  Cricket
ICC launches annual awards
29 Jun 04  |  Cricket

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