Had the Guardian compiled a list of the world’s 20 best women cricketers at any stage over the past few years Meg Lanning would likely have been an emphatic choice as the world’s best, such is the way she has rewritten records with her broad and stylish blade. It shows how competitive women’s cricket is that the Australia captain’s six months out of the game, rebuilding a shoulder that needed reconstructing, was enough for her to be overtaken by Ellyse Perry and Suzie Bates when compiling this inaugural list.

The Guardian asked 15 judges with specialist knowledge of women’s cricket – including Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent, Mel Jones and Jason Gillespie – to choose their individual top 20 from a longlist of 40. We pooled their votes to produce our own list of the world’s top 20 on the eve of England’s first match of the summer. It is not a definitive list – ask 15 other judges and you would have a different top 20 – but it does provide intriguing reading.

The rules

• We sent our 15 judges a longlist of 40 cricketers and asked one simple question: who are the best 20 female players in the world right now? 
• They ranked their selection in order from 1-20. The No1 choice of each judge was awarded 20pts, No2 given 19pts, down to 1pt for their No20 choice. All the votes were added together to give a final score. 
• We are very grateful to our judges for taking part, and none have been paid for participating in this project.
• To allow our judges the freedom to express their opinions without fear or favour, individual voting records are anonymised in the full breakdown of scores. Voters are identified only by their category and a number chosen at random.

The judges

Zainab Abbas Sports anchor and analyst for Dunya news
Tanya Aldred Freelance writer and co-editor of The Nightwatchman
Adam Collins Cricket writer and broadcaster
Vithushan Ehantharajah Cricbuzz English correspondent
Jodie Fields Retired Australia international cricketer
Natalie Germanos South African sports broadcaster, commentating mainly on cricket
Jason Gillespie Guardian cricket columnist and head coach of Sussex
Mel Jones Commentator and retired Australia cricketer
Vic Marks Guardian and Observer cricket correspondent
Ali Martin Guardian cricket news reporter
Alison Mitchell Commentator for TMS and Channel 5
Raf Nicholson Women’s cricket journalist and historian. Editor of CRICKETher.com
Kate O’Halloran Guardian Australia writer and former Victorian cricketer
Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent Broadcaster and retired England cricketer
Isabelle Westbury Writer and broadcaster. Former Middlesex captain

Of course there should be no quibbling about Perry’s ascension. For the first half of her career she was the opening bowler who made handy contributions well down the list. Now she is the most consistent runscorer in the game, highlighted by her masterful unbeaten Ashes Test double hundred last November. The 27-year-old is truly at the peak of her powers and this recognition mirrors that.

The margins between the top three were negligible; they were the only players in the votes from every judge. But the numerical drop to fourth was significant, reinforcing the esteem in which this Big Three are held. Second‑placed Bates, New Zealand’s captain, has been rewarded for her relentless output across formats, countries and competitions both international and domestic.

Another pointer to the diversified strength of women’s cricket is that India, World Cup finalists last year, have four entries. Mithali Raj (fourth), the side’s inspirational leader, was a lock as was the veteran opening bowler Jhulan Goswami (13th), who shows no signs of tapering off. But it is Smitri Mandhana (eighth) and Harmanpreet Kaur (10th) who represent the future of a transformed team on a mission to captivate their nation.

India can point to more entries than the World T20 champions, West Indies, with only Stafanie Taylor (seventh) getting the nod, and the traditional powerhouse New Zealand. For the White Ferns, the senior players Amy Satterthwaite (10th) and Sophie Devine (19th) were supported by the panel in addition to Bates.

Turning to the players who held up the World Cup trophy at Lord’s last July, England are equally best represented with five entrants. Reflecting the evenness of their output, Sarah Taylor is the first of those in ninth, also making her the top-rated wicketkeeper.

The bowler who dominated the final, Anya Shrubsole (12th), is the first of the trio named Wisden Cricketers of the Year ahead of Nat Sciver (15th) and the captain, Heather Knight (20th). The latter snuck in despite the fact that she was also the Player of the Women’s Ashes. As for Katherine Brunt (18th), the evergreen seamer-turned-smasher keeps on going.

Five Australians also made the 20. The swing specialist Megan Schutt joined the aforementioned Perry and Lanning in the top six after topping the Women’s Ashes wickets column. After finally clicking with the bat at the top level, Alyssa Healy (16th) also made the cut, as did the frugal finger spinner Jess Jonassen (18th).

In the battle of the specialist seamers, Schutt was one place behind South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp (fifth) who boasts the best economy rate in the game. Her Proteas captain, the leg-spinner Dane van Niekerk (18th) is also there, one of only two front‑line spinners. So much for the adage in women’s cricket that the only way to win is to spin. Not in this survey, at least. Of those who missed out, the England opener Tammy Beaumont has every right to be peeved. Named the player of the World Cup last year, she was also overlooked on Wisden night. Beth Mooney, the ICC’s T20 player of the year, also fell short, but it will not be long before she is a mainstay of this list. All signs suggest it will be the same for the England T20 all-rounder Danielle Wyatt.

The youngsters Ash Gardner (Australia), Hayley Matthews (West Indies) and Laura Woolvaart (South Africa) were all in the votes without getting over the line. That they all play on the semi-professional circuit helps their case in the future: 18 of the top 20 have featured in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia. With visibility comes value.

As a process, the top 20 was exhaustive. You can see the full voting here. As a debate, it is ongoing; emblematic of a talent pool never deeper and a game never healthier.



Source link