MELBOURNE: All-rounder Shane Watson emerged the highest-earning Australian cricketer with the Indian Premier League money, ahead of the likes Ricky Ponting and captain Michael Clarke, according to a latest rich-list of sportspersons.
According to the list of Top 50 Sports Earners of 2011 released by Business Review Weekly magazine, cricket has now emerged as one of Australia's most lucrative sports thanks to the emergence of Twenty20.
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Interestingly, this trend is happening with Australia no longer the dominant force in world cricket. Rather it hit its lowest point in nearly 30 years after losing a home Test match against New Zealand in Hobart, the first time since 1985.
Watson, who is desperate to play in first Test against India starting on December 26 after being out of action for nearly a month due to hamstring and lower back problems, earns $4 million and he is at 11th in the rich-list of Australian sportspersons.
He made $1.8 million in his IPL deal with the Rajasthan Royals, and remains one of the few players to play Test, ODI and Twenty20 cricket.
Skipper Clarke and former captain Ponting both pocketed $3.5 million to be at joint 16th spot. Neither played IPL.
Basketball star Andrew Bogut took top spot with $13 million, despite not playing a game in recent months because of the NBA lockout.
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Motorsports dominated the top five, with MotoGP ace Casey Stoner ($9.5m) coming in second, ahead of Formula One driver Mark Webber ($9m) and Supercross hero Chad Reed ($8.5m). Tour de France winner Cadel Evans rounded out the top five with $5 million.
Soccer stars still featured heavily, with Tim Cahill earning $4.5 million to rank ninth, the highest of the nine soccer players in the top 50, while there were seven golfers, down from 13 last year.
US Open winner Sam Stosur and surfer Stephanie Gilmore are the only two women to figure in the top 50.