Mumbai: Indian opener Virender Sehwag is a frontrunner for the Castrol Indian Cricketer of the Year 2008 with 59 points.
The other four in the running are Gautam Gambhir, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma.
Sehwag has had a phenomenal year in Test Cricket with a triple hundred against South Africa and a double hundred against Sri Lanka, along with some blazing starts at the top of the order in one day cricket.
Carrying on with his splendid form against the Australians in the Test series, Sehwag also came good in the one day series against England with a blistering 85 in the first game at Rajkot, propelling India to a massive total of 387/5 in their allotted 50 overs. He followed that up with knocks of 68 in Kanpur, 69 in Bangalore, and missed out on a scintillating century with 91 in the fifth game at Cuttack.
He ended the year with a blistering 83 in the second innings of the Chennai Test against England, which facilitated India''s series win.
Gambhir is a close second with 52 points, after matching his opening partner''s good run with scores of 51,70 and 40 in the one dayers against England, along with a gritty century in seaming conditions in the second Test against England in Mohali.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni concluded one of the most successful years by an Indian captain, with four wins in five Tests. Dhoni led from the front with sterling performances at crucial moments to take the third position with 48 points.
Two young bowlers walked away with the fourth and fifth positions with pivotal spells against the visiting English team. Harbhajan Singh kept the pressure on the Englishman with some tight spells during the one dayers, and picked up crucial wickets during the Chennai Test, to capture 41 points.
Ishant Sharma enhanced his reputation as India''s new speed sensation, spearheading the attack with 6 wickets in the two Tests against England, and holds fifth position with 37 points.
As per the Awards criteria, all Indian cricketers who have played international cricket for India will now be invited to vote for their choice of the Castrol Indian Cricketer of the Year from amongst the top five.
The annual Castrol Awards for Cricketing Excellence were instituted in 1997-98. The rating system takes into account performances by Indian cricketers in Test and One Day international matches during the calendar year. The Awards have been dominated over the last decade by Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and this is the first year when neither of the three legends - Sachin, Rahul and Sourav, feature amongst the top five.
In 2008, Castrol also initiated the Castrol Asian Cricketer of the Year Award which was won by Sourav Ganguly for 2007.