Usually such a reliable and consistent player, Inzamam-ul-Haq blew hot and cold. His World Cup was a disaster - he lost more pounds (23) in a much-publicised pre-tournament diet than he made runs (19) - and he was cast into the wilderness. He returned five months later and hit a superb 138 not out on his home ground at Multan in a face-saving one-wicket win over Bangladesh. Having been out of the squad three weeks earlier, Inzamam was made stand-in captain two days later, and got the job officially barely a fortnight after that; the prodigal son's rehabilitation was complete. By the end of the year, the weight - of body and runs - was back, his Test average had never been higher, and he was expertly shepherding Pakistan to a series victory against New Zealand at Wellington with his old mate Yousuf Youhana.
2003: 7 Tests: 558 runs @ 62.00.
18 ODI: 418 runs @ 34.83.
Jacques Kallis (South Africa)
For much of the year it was impossible to separate Kallis's public persona from his private. After South Africa lost the final of the one-day series at Lord's, Kallis flew home to Cape Town to be with his father, Henry, who was suffering from cancer and died soon after. It made Kallis's performances in the tournament - at one stage he had hit 329 runs for once out - all the more remarkable, especially after a wretched World Cup. He rejoined the England tour in time for the Third Test and, although his batting was solid rather than spectacular, he still finished the year averaging nearly 50, not to mention nine wickets in the win at Headingley. A riot of centuries against West Indies in the 2003-04 series indicated he was back to his very best. His slip fielding remained world-class.
2003: 8 Tests: 698 runs @ 49.85; 19 wickets @ 38.42.
17 ODI: 595 runs @ 54.09; 14 wickets @ 43.42.
Michael Kasprowicz (Australia)
Restricted almost exclusively to domestic cricket by the excellence of the Australian pace attack, Kasprowicz had the energy, enthusiasm and class to shine in both the Pura Cup and the County Championship. First, he finished the 2002-03 Australian season with 48 first-class wickets - second only to leg-spinner MacGill - for Queensland. Then he flew north to play for Glamorgan, where his tally of 77 Championship scalps - second only to another leg-spinner, Mushtaq Ahmed - included two separate innings hauls of nine wickets against Durham. When Australia did find room for him, his bustling, nippy seamers returned comfortably the most economical analysis on either side during a TVS Cup game with India that yielded 633 runs. Batsmen under-estimated Kasprowicz at their peril.
2003: 2 ODI: did not bat; 2 wickets @ 32.50.
Gary Kirsten (South Africa)
With the possible exception of his captain, Graeme Smith, Kirsten bore the hardest nose in a hard-nosed team. Still full of left-handed pragmatism and common sense, he oozed competitiveness, particularly during a magnificent, match-winning 130 at Headingley which, for sheer tenacity, put even Smith's twin double-hundreds in the shade. His public dressing-down of a skittish Gibbs at The Oval was wonderfully indicative of his waste-not-want-not attitude to sport. Supposedly in the twilight of his career, Kirsten was more productive than ever: he made more hundreds, and had a higher average, than in any other calendar year. You might not have paid to watch him, but you would certainly have paid to have him in your team. See also Five Cricketers of the Year, page 64.
2003: 8 Tests: 889 runs @ 74.08.
6 ODI: 186 runs @ 62.00.
Anil Kumble (India)
It was the biggest turnaround of the year. Kumble spent most of the time in the shadow of Harbhajan Singh - he hardly featured in India's run to the World Cup final - and his career seemed to be winding down gently. But Harbhajan lost form, then got injured and, by the end of 2003, Kumble was India's supersub, gunning down Australians by the dozen - and getting the respect that had been absent for much of his 14 years in international cricket. He added more variations, of pace especially, to his splice-rattling topspinners, and his control was magnificent. At Adelaide, his bowling was overshadowed by Dravid and Laxman, but without Kumble there would have been no famous victory. That match took his tally of wickets in Test wins to 176; no other Indian had even 100.
2003: 4 Tests: 20 runs @ 5.00; 21 wickets @ 36.42.
10 ODI: 66 runs @ 16.50; 13 wickets @ 25.76.
Justin Langer (Australia)
It did not matter to Langer that he spent much of the year in the ample shadow of his opening partner and buddy, Hayden. The archetypal team man, and one of Steve Waugh's most fervent disciples, he simply carried on scoring runs in the selfless cut-and-thrust style he had adopted ever since his Test return at The Oval in 2001. In four Tests in the West Indies he averaged 69. Then, after failing to cash in against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, he immediately repaid his critics with 121 at Brisbane against India. As the perfect foil to the bigger, brasher Hayden, his role in the team - low-key but loyal - went beyond mere statistics.
2003: 12 Tests: 824 runs @ 41.20.
Brian Lara (West Indies)
Two stats summed up the unique burden that Lara faced: at Johannesburg in December, he became the first man in history to have scored two doublehundreds in Test defeats, and by the end of the year he had scored over 3,700 Test runs when his team lost; no one else anywhere in the world had even made 3,000. He had more on his plate than anyone: star batsman and, later, captain of a poor West Indies side, with an almost tangible expectation every time he walked to the crease. Yet he batted like a man without a care in the world. The warning shot came right at the start: 116 against South Africa in the World Cup opener told everyone that, after his mystery illness, Lara was back. From there, it was one long purple patch. Given the captaincy for the home series with Australia, he fell only 13 runs shy of his miracle series in 1998-99. The Lara calling-card - big hundreds, made at high speed - was there, but perhaps his most important innings was a delicious, unbeaten 80 that won the series with Sri Lanka, when he again had Muralitharan in his pocket. In that, as in so much else, Lara was entirely out on his own.
2003: 10 Tests: 1,344 runs @ 74.66.
21 ODI: 888 runs @ 46.73; no wicket for 15.
VVS Laxman (India)
At the start of the year, Laxman was not good enough for India's World Cup squad; by the end, as he tormented his favourite victims Australia once more, he was one of the richest, purest sights in world cricket. Brought back into the fold in October, Laxman meant business from the off: two unbeaten, unusually disciplined innings saved the Mohali Test against New Zealand, then a beautiful 148 at Adelaide helped win one in sensational circumstances. Australian bowlers wondered just where to bowl to him: like Viv Richards, he seemed to be able to choose where he wanted to hit any delivery; everybody else felt like they had been touched by something Very Very Special. And with every wristily sleek stroke the question grew ever more perplexing: how on earth had Dinesh Mongia played in the World Cup ahead of him?
2003: 5 Tests: 595 runs @ 85.00.
8 ODI: 232 runs @ 29.00.
Brett Lee (Australia)
The sight of Lee steaming in to bowl during the World Cup captured perfectly the panache, adventure and will to win of the Australians. In three Super Six games and a semi-final, Lee took 14 wickets - and never once failed to entertain. He dismantled Sri Lanka's top order twice, finished off New Zealand with a scorching spell of five for three, and claimed a hat-trick - only Australia's third in one-day internationals - against Kenya. His competition haul of 22 wickets was second only to Vaas of Sri Lanka; his calendar tally of 46 in all one-day internationals second to none, and equal to Muralitharan. In Tests, however, he did lose some of his edge: with the old ball against top batsmen on shirtfronts, he had little to offer. In bursts, he remained one of the most destructive fast bowlers on the planet. 2003: 10 Tests: 141 runs @ 17.62; 38 wickets @ 35.02.
24 ODI: 85 runs @ 10.62; 46 wickets @ 20.13.
Darren Lehmann (Australia)
His achievements were sandwiched by disgrace and disappointment, but Lehmann's prolific form with the bat compensated in part for years of thumbtwiddling on the periphery of the Australian team. In January 2003, he was banned for five one-day internationals after a racist expletive in the dressing room was overheard during a game with Sri Lanka at Brisbane. He returned contrite and refreshed and set about booking what looked like a permanent place in Australia's powerful batting line-up: he pummelled West Indies - including a cathartic first Test hundred, five years after his debut -and Bangladesh, and averaged nearly 52 in one-day internationals, where his tidy left-arm spin was an unexpected bonus. But his progress was halted in November by an Achilles injury, and the emergence of Simon Katich and Michael Clarke as middle-order rivals meant that Lehmann ended the year with his career shrouded in uncertainty once more.
2003: 7 Tests: 670 runs @ 74.44; 5 wickets @ 24.80.
16 ODI: 467 runs @ 51.88; 10 wickets @ 20.90.