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Smith collects first Allan Border Medal

27 January 2015

Steven Smith caps a sensational year by sweeping the ODI and Test Player of the Year awards and collecting the Allan Border Medal

A career CV that in recent months has grown to include Test captain and record-breaking batsman now includes Allan Border Medallist as Steve Smith added Australian cricket's highest individual honour to his raft of recent achievements.

Having been announced as Australia's Test and One-Day International Player of the Year at this evening's annual awards night in Sydney, Smith was odds-on to receive the honour for the first time in its 16-year history.

He polled a total of 243 votes to win in a canter from the other pre-count hopeful David Warner (175) and reigning Border Medallist Mitchell Johnson (126)

In doing so, the 25-year-old became the youngest player to win the Medal – which is decided by cumulative votes cast by fellow players, umpires and media representatives at every international match – since Michael Clarke won it as a 23-year-old in 2005.

AB Medal red carpet images 2015

Steve Smith with his partner Dani Willis // Getty Images

That result had announced Clarke as the standard-bearer for the era that was to follow the inevitable retirement of all-time greats Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and others and the current captain has since gone on to receive the Medal on three other occasions.

Given his form of the past year in the Test and ODI formats, nobody would doubt that Smith is capable of equalling or even bettering that record, perhaps matching Ponting who has his name on the Medal's honour board four times.

Smith admitted that, as he sat among his teammates, peers and former greats of the game during this evening's Border Medal presentation ceremony, he finally had an opportunity to reflect on some of the defining moments of a transformational year.

He cited his century in the opening Test of last year's series in South Africa, against what was then rated as the world's foremost pace bowling attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, as his favourite knock of his golden run.

And that 2-1 series victory over the then top-ranked Test team on their own turf as one of the great memories he relived tonight.

"I've just really enjoyed the last 12 to 18 months," Smith said.

"And seeing some of those highlights, particularly the South Africa to win over here and beat the number one Test team in the world in their own backyard was amazing."

AB Medal red carpet images 2015

Winners are grinners // Getty Images

Smith became the third player to win all three major men's awards – the Medal, the Test and ODI Player of the Year – a feat that was achieved by Ricky Ponting in 2007 and Shane Watson in 2011.

As the 10th recipient of the Border Medal he now joins an exclusive club that includes previous winners which also includes Glenn McGrath, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

But having never previously picked up a trophy at Australian cricket's foremost annual awards gathering, the 25-year-old didn't arrive this evening with hefty expectations.

"I thought I'd be up there with a couple of them, I certainly didn't think I'd be collecting the one-day, the Test and the AB Medal," Smith said after his triple success.

"I thought I'd be in the top three with Mitchell Johnson and David Warner so I'm just really pleased to have been able to receive these awards.

"I've joined a pretty illustrious group of players who have come before me."

In accepting the award, Smith paid tribute to Australia's batting coach Michael di Venuto who he said helped reassure him in the midst of last summer's Ashes campaign when Smith was desperately searching for a big score.

The pair adhere to the same pre-game set of drills at each session and even though Smith concedes he had to work hard to eradicate flaws in his batting after being dropped from the Test team in 2011, he's always maintained faith in his unorthodox technique.

"When you've had a bit of success doing something you've done for a while you try to keep to that as much as you can," he said when asked if there was more tinkering needed for his batting.

"It's when things don't go well is when you look at yourself and say what can you better and what can you change to improve.

"I feel like everything's good at the moment and hopefully this run I'm on continues for me.

"I faced a few challenges there, that's for sure.

"I had an opportunity when I was younger to play for Australia and it's always disappointing when you get left out and to be dropped was absolutely devastating.

"But those things happen for a reason, I had to go back and look at the way I was playing and try and improve and for me that was trying to score as many runs as I could and become a bit more mentally strong.

"There might have been some technical flaws when I was younger but I think that was all mental.

"The balls I was getting out to, nicking outside off stump, I would leave those balls now so that's a decision-making thing and a mental part of my game that I've improved and I'm sure there's a lot of improvement left to go.

"For me, it's about to trying to control the urges that I have.

"I might have an urge to sometimes to try and hit a bowler over his head, so for me it's about saying to myself 'it's not the right time, just bring it back a little bit'.

"It's about saying you've got all day to bat, there's no reason why you have to get 50 in 20 balls.

"That's been the biggest thing for me – just being patient and making the right decisions."

Not only did Smith take over the captaincy for the first time in the first-class arena in the midst fof an emotional and hard-fought Test campaign, he set a new benchmark for runs scored in a four-match series – 769 at an average of more than 128 runs each time he went out to bat.

Having debuted at Test level at age 21 essentially as a legspin bowler who could bat a bit, Smith has trained assiduously and learned quickly and developed a unique batting game that is the scourge of bowlers worldwide.

In short, as India have been the latest to discover, nobody seems to have hit upon a regular method of getting him out.

The fact that Smith was installed as vice-captain in place of Brad Haddin when the severity of Clarke's hamstring injury was revealed indicated – which therefore meant he became Test skipper for much of the summer – indicated he is the man ordained to lead Australian cricket into the future.

AB Medal red carpet images 2015

Australia captain Michael Clarke watches on // Getty Images

From the results he has achieved both individually and as the talisman for his team, that future is in safe hands.

And given he should have at least another decade at the top level, there will be plenty of other awards and team trophies that he will collect along the way.

Votes for the Medal are cast in 3-2-1 form by players, umpires and media representatives at each international, then the three leading vote winners in each match are awarded votes accordingly with Test votes given an additional weighting so as not to disadvantage those who play only Tests.

Earlier this evening, Sean Abbott was named as the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year, Southern Stars captain Meg Lanning received the Belinda Clark Medal and the Alcohol. Think Again Warriors pace bowler Jason Behrendorff was named State Player of the Year.

AB Medal red carpet images 2015

Meg Lanning all smiles after winning the Belinda Clark Award // Getty Images

In addition, former all-rounder and long-serving administrator Jack Ryder was formally inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame as was ex-Test and ODI wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist.

Allan Border Medal Top Five

About the Writer

 @ARamseyCricket
@ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

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