Melbourne:Under-fire Australian captain Rick Ponting has got a reason to smile in the toughest time of his career as he shared the Allan Border Medal with his deputy Michael Clarke.
This is for first time in the 10-year history of the award that two people have jointly awarded the top honour. Ponting and Clarke collected 41 votes apiece as the award panel considered 12 Tests and 17 One-Dayers Internationals over the last 12 months.
Ponting's medal votes were broken up into 22 from his team-mates and 19 from a combined media and umpires tally, whereas Clarke received 21 and 20.
Ponting, who has won the honour previously in 2004, '06 and '07, was surprised to win the award again and hit back at the criticism that Australian team was on decline.
"This is an amazing shock to me... (I was) just waiting for either 'Pup' or Mitch to get up here tonight and accept the award," he was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press.
Australia's one-day team has lost its numero uno status and on the verge of being overtaken by India and South Africa in Tests.
"As we all know it's been an up-and-down year for the team and everybody right at the moment is writing us off," Ponting said.
"But I know deep down in my heart that we're not very far away at all and I think our results would even prove that over the last couple of months," Ponting said.
"It's been am amazing time with some of our greats leaving the team, some obviously very exciting and young players coming into the team.
"It's an amazing challenge for me and certainly Michael to keep leading this team in the right direction," he added. Ponting played in 24 matches in last 12 months in both forms of the game, scoring 1283 at 37.74 with three centuries and eight half-centuries.
While Clarke, who has won the award in 2005, played a total of 25 matches last year including Tests and One-dayers, scoring 1228 runs at an average of 39.61 with four centuries and five 50s.
"Obviously I'm very honoured to receive the Allan Border Medal and even more honoured to be standing beside my captain," Clarke said after accepting the award. Paceman Brett Lee was the winner last year.