'Sri Lanka series was the turning point'
Gautam Gambhir edged out his India and Delhi opening partner Virender Sehwag in a close tussle for the Castrol Indian Cricketer of the Year Award for 2008.
The southpaw, who scored over 1,000 runs in Tests and ODIs in the calendar year of 2008, received a trophy and a cheque for Rs 5 lakhs at a glittering function, in Mumbai on Thursday.
"I never thought I would score 1000 runs in both forms of the game especially in Test cricket because at one point of time I wasn't even there in the Test team. But I think the Sri Lanka series was the turning point for my Test career," Gambhir said.
The left-hander also reflected on his double century he made against Australia in Delhi last year.
'It was one of my dream because I had made my debut against Australia and I was all at sea when I played my first game at Wankhede [in November 2004]. So always had one thing in my mind that I want to score against Australia."
Image: Gautam Gambhir receives the Indian Cricketer of the Year Award
'Vishy could score off a good ball'
Gundappa Rangnath Viswanath, the former India captain, was the recipient of the Castrol Lifetime Achievement in Cricket Award. He received a trophy and cheque for Rs 5 lakhs from his team-mate and brother in law Sunil Gavaskar.
"He had more shots than most batsmen. The balls, which most of us were either leaving or defending, would be hit by him. Vishy could score off a good ball," Gavaskar said.
Vishwanath, who made his debut against Australia in Kanpur in 1969, said the century he scored on debut will always remain his best.
"The first hundred will always remain the best because in the first innings I had got out on a duck. There was something going on in my mind. I was thinking that I won't get a chance. However, in the second innings I got one. The pitch was good and I went on to play aggressively. The whole crowd erupted in applause," Vishy said.
Image: Gundappa Viswanath with Sunil Gavaskar
'Getting Ponting out is always special'
Harbhajan Singh won the Indian bowler of the year, while India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was named the Indian ODI Player of the year.
Harbhajan, who is the third Indian bowler to take 300 wickets in Test cricket after Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble, said he never imagined when he started his career that he would end up with so many wickets.
"I never thought when I started that I would take 300 wickets. When I started I just wanted to play one Test cricket and when I played along the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Anil Kumble and Navjot Singh Sidhu I thought my life is successful and even if die tomorrow I will not mind," he said.
And when asked how it felt to claim Australia captain Ricky Ponting as his 300th Test wicket, he replied: "Ponting is a very good player and getting Ponting out is always special. It is always great to take wickets of top players like Ponting."
Image: Harbhajan Singh receives Indian bowler of the year award
Jadeja named junior cricketer of the Year
Youngster Ravindra Jadeja, who was the highest wicket taker in the Ranji Trophy competition in 2008 and made a breakthrough to the Indian team, won the Indian junior cricketer of the Year 2008.
There were two winners in the special awards category for 2008 with Sachin Tendulkar getting the special award for becoming the first batsman in Test history to score 12,000 runs.
Rahul Dravid also received a special award for becoming the world record holder for the highest number of catches in Test matches, surpassing Mark Waugh's world record tally of 181 catches.
The Castrol Indian Cricketer of the Year Award is decided by a two stage process. In the first stage, a performance based points system decides the top five contenders for the title. In the second stage, all Indian cricketers who have played atleast one Test match or five ODIs votes for their choice of the Indian Cricketer based on qualitative judgement, considering various facets of their performance. This year 113 cricketers sent in their votes, endorsing Gautam Gambhir as their choice for the Indian Cricketer of the Year 2008. The other nominees included Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma.
Image: Ravindra Jadeja gets his award from former India cricketer Madhav Mantri