AUSTRALIAN cricket yesterday conceded that the national team's loss has been Tasmania's gain with former Test captain Ricky Ponting named Sheffield Shield player of the year.
Three months after his emotional farewell from international cricket and with his former team staring at a humiliating whitewash in India, the 38-year-old Mowbray batsman was presented with the award at Bellerive where this week he hopes to fill the only void on his resume by landing a domestic title.
Ponting remained typically focused on the Shield final, which begins against Queensland tomorrow, despite besieged national coach Mickey Arthur admitting that his side was missing its all-time leading run-scorer, and fellow veteran Mike Hussey.
``International cricket's long passed me by,'' Ponting said.
He expressed disappointment at the national team's decline but believed it could restore some pride in the fourth Test which also begins tomorrow in Delhi.
``As long as they bounce back this week and put up a good show,'' he said.
Despite playing two games less than many of his fellow batsmen, Ponting has scored 875 runs at 87.50 in this season's Shield with three centuries, a top score of 200 not out and also took 14 catches.
He polled 18 votes in the count to finish two ahead of South Australia's swing bowler Chadd Sayers with Queensland batsman Usman Khawaja and emerging New South Wales quick Gurinder Sandhu tied for third place on 12 votes. Ponting was also named captain of a four-day team of the year which included Tigers teammates Alex Doolan, Luke Butterworth, Jackson Bird and Mark Cosgrove, and was named in the Big Bash League's equivalent alongside Hobart Hurricanes teammates Tim Paine and Ben Laughlin.
Ponting featured prominently as the Tigers made both domestic finals last season, but fell agonisingly short of some elusive domestic silverware.
With George Bailey on national duty, Ponting captained the side to a three-wicket loss to Queensland in the Shield final just a couple of weeks after being stranded at the non-striker's end when the one-day final finished in a tie, handing the trophy to table-topping South Australia.
Ahead of its third successive Shield final, Tasmania received plenty of recognition from Cricket Australia yesterday, including the Benaud men's spirit of cricket award.