Indian-born Australian woman cricketer Lisa Sthalekar has been named Women's International Cricketer of the Year at the coveted Allan Border medal ceremony, the most important cricketing award in Australia.
The Pune-born Sthalekar pipped Australian captain Karen Rolton by one vote at Monday's Allan Border Medal count to become just the third member of the Australia women's team to win the award.
Sthalekar, 27, enjoyed a superb individual year with the Southern Stars, and averaged 44.71 as a top-order batter and 22.55 as an off spinner from one Test and eight limited-overs matches against India and New Zealand.
In a one-off Test against India last year at Adelaide, she was the player of the match scoring 72 runs and bagging five wickets for 30 runs in the tourists' second innings.
She steered her state team New South Wales to victory in the 2005-06 Women's National Cricket League in her first season as captain.
Speaking to Indian Link, an ethnic Indian newspaper, Sthalekar said that she was looking forward to playing in a one-day international tournament to be held in Chennai, India, from this month.
"I am looking forward to the challenge of playing in India again," Sthalekar was quoted as saying in the paper. "You can't look past India on home soil - their record at home is impressive and because they are different conditions for the rest of us, it will be extremely hard."
Sthalekar, a versatile all-rounder, has been appointed vice-captain of the Australian team for the quadrangular tournament, featuring Australia, India, England and New Zealand, to be held from Feb 21 to Mar 5.
"Lisa's strength is her all-round game," the Indian Link report quoted Rolton as saying. "She makes runs at the top of the order, even under pressure and has been in really good form lately. She can also bowl 10 tight overs (and) pick up some wickets on the way, so she's a very valuable member of the team."
Lisa had spent just three weeks in India before her family moved to Australia, where her father introduced her to the game, when she showed promise as a backyard cricketer.
"I first picked up the bat at the age of six or seven in the backyard with my father," she said. "Throughout my career, my family supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams."
"The smell of the sun, the grass and sunscreen again has got me excited," she told the newspaper. "In Sydney, everyone goes, 'the smell of sunscreen is like you're going to the beach', but for me it's the cricket ground."
Sthalekar, who works full time for Cricket New South Wales as high performance coach, also has an arts degree majoring in psychology.
"I would like to pursue further study in psychology but that will come when I finish cricket as I just don't have the time," she said.