Of the 40 players chosen, 29 have retained their places from last year. The 11 dropped are Michael Bevan, Andy Bichel, Mark Boucher, Gary Kirsten, Brett Lee, Darren Lehmann, Stuart MacGill, Mushtaq Ahmed, Makhaya Ntini, Mark Richardson, and Steve Waugh. Kirsten, Richardson and Waugh all retired during 2004. They have been replaced by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Michael Clarke, Danish Kaneria, Harbhajan Singh, Steve Harmison, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Jacob Oram, Andrew Strauss, Graham Thorpe and Shane Warne.
The country-by-country breakdown is as follows:
Australia 10 (14)
England 6 (3)
India 6 (5)
Sri Lanka 5 (3)
Pakistan 4 (4)
South Africa 4 (7)
New Zealand 2 (2)
West Indies 2 (1)
Zimbabwe 1 (1)
Wisden 2004 numbers in brackets.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul (West Indies) - No other player in world cricket was compared to an animal last year as often as Chanderpaul to a crab. Yet his game moved in two directions in
2004, and neither of them was sideways. First he regressed horribly during
England's visit to the Caribbean, when his inelegance drew attention to his
lack of runs, and cost him his place. Then he used the Bangladeshis as a
route back into form for the return trip to England, where unbeaten innings
of 128 and 97 at Lord's spared West Indies an even greater thrashing.
Although he faded as the series wore on, his wicket became almost as vital
to the England cause as that of Brian Lara. He also played a crucial role in
West Indies' delightfully unexpected Champions Trophy triumph: a run-aball
fifty to see off South Africa, followed by his side's top-score of 47 in
the final - an innings that was forgotten amid the daring dusk raid by
Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw.
2004: 10 Tests: 715 runs @ 47.66; no wicket for 0.
24 ODI: 668 runs @ 33.40; no wicket for 11.
Michael Clarke (Australia) - The blond streaks came from a bottle, but in everything else Clarke was an absolute natural. Having been made to wait what seemed like an eternity for his Test debut, he produced
a performance for the annals with
a wondrous 151 at Bangalore,
imbuing it with an even greater
lustre by pointedly and proudly
swapping his helmet for the Baggy
Green when in the nineties. His fresh
face and fast feet breathed life into
an ageing Australian team, and put
a glint in the eye of world cricket:
rarely had an Australian been taken
so easily to hearts around the globe.
If his youth damned him with
inconsistency, it also blessed him
with a striking fearlessness: throughout
the year, Clarke thrived on the
pressure points. He made two
sparkling half-centuries at Nagpur,
and a punishing 141 to wrench the
First Test at Brisbane away from New Zealand. Everything he touched turned
to gold, including a remarkable and unlikely spell of six for nine at Mumbai.
Twinkle-toed, deceptively powerful and so wonderfully talented, particularly
against spin bowling, Clarke was the original smiling assassin. Batting's
golden age seemed to have found its golden boy.
2004: 8 Tests: 596 runs @ 49.66; 6 wickets @ 6.16.
26 ODI: 615 runs @ 32.36; 9 wickets @ 34.55.
Danish Kaneria (Pakistan) - The torch of Pakistani leg-spin traditionally burns fiercely, and in 2004 it
found a worthy carrier. Danish Kaneria may be as deadly a googly-merchant
as his predecessors Abdul Qadir and
Mushtaq Ahmed, but he is largely
cut from a different cloth: his action
lacks their waspish grace, and
instead he relies on height, control
and mental strength. But at the end
of the year he had the best average
of the three. Kaneria's previous
successes had been largely against
Bangladesh, but now he went toeto-
toe with some of world cricket's
finest players of spin. He chipped
away at Sri Lanka to square the
series in Karachi, and was one of the
few Pakistan players to emerge with credit from the debacle in Australia.
Afterwards, Shane Warne commented favourably.
2004: 6 Tests: 25 runs @ 8.33; 29 wickets @ 33.24.
1 ODI: did not bat; 1 wicket @ 26.00.
Rahul Dravid (India) - The Wall didn't quite come tumbling down, but Dravid regressed from the
stratospheric standards of 2003. He was the ICC's inaugural Player of the
Year - chiefly for his displays in Australia in 2003-04 - but struggled to
influence the return series and made just one fifty in four Tests. Without the
safety valve of Sachin Tendulkar below him for half the series, Dravid went
into his shell: his strike-rate dropped from 51 in Australia to 27 at home.
He still scored more one-day international runs than anyone else, and there
were two trademark big Test hundreds. One - 160 against Bangladesh - was
essentially meaningless; the other - a 12-hour 270 in a series decider in
Pakistan when nobody else made a century - could barely have been of
2004: 12 Tests: 946 runs @ 63.06.
31 ODI (22 as wicket-keeper): 1,025 runs @ 39.42; 22 catches as keeper, 3 stumpings.
Stephen Fleming (New Zealand) - As a captain, Fleming had a mixed year. He very publicly outpsyched South
Africa's Graeme Smith during a one-day international at Auckland, but for
much of New Zealand's miserable series in England he cut a forlorn, helpless
figure at slip, arms folded, lip bitten. A record of three wins out of ten, two
of them against Bangladesh, damaged his carefully crafted reputation as
world cricket's cleverest leader, and there were rumours of a power struggle
with the new coach, John Bracewell. As a batsman, however, things could
not have gone much better. For once, his Test conversion rate - past fifty
four times, past a hundred twice - kept the critics off his back. And his
form in black at the top of the one-day order was simply superlative, as was
New Zealand's record of four defeats in 20 completed matches.
2004: 10 Tests: 737 runs @ 46.06.
22 ODI: 921 runs @ 48.47.
Andrew Flintoff (England) - While he was busy lifting sixes and spirits, everything felt right in English
cricket. Flintoff had first begun to apply his destructive talents on a regular
basis in 2003, and in 2004 he kept going. A century in Antigua was followed
by at least one score over 50 in the next seven Tests, including a monstrous
167 against West Indies at
Edgbaston, when he hit seven of the
46 sixes he registered in both forms
of the game in the calendar year. He
was no less prolific in pyjamas: in
six innings separated by the West
Indies Tests, Flintoff made three
centuries, and a 99 against India at
The Oval, where he returned to the
pavilion with the same broad grin
he brought out in spectators. His
bowling acquired new dimensions
too, in spite of a bone spur on his
left ankle that prevented him from sending down a single over during the
NatWest Series at home. He collected his first Test five-wicket haul in
Barbados and, when he returned from injury, adopted a more probing, stumpthreatening
line. To top it all, his first child, Holly, arrived in September.
By the end of the year, the talk was no longer of the new Botham. Thanks
in no small part to Flintoff, the English game had finally moved on.
2004: 13 Tests: 898 runs @ 52.82; 43 wickets @ 25.76.
14 ODI: 633 runs @ 57.54; 16 wickets @ 21.31.
Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa) - After turning 30 most people might embrace a quieter life but, even by
Gibbs's helter-skelter standards, 2004 was a year full of incident. It began
with two blockbusting hundreds against West Indies, took in injury, burnout,
an astonishingly poor run of form in Sri Lanka, and much soul-searching
over whether he should tour India, for fear of reopening the Pandora's Box
of match-fixing. Gibbs eventually pulled out and, when the new South African
coach Ray Jennings called his performances "embarrassing", some felt his
international career was done. But naked talent cannot be extinguished so
easily, and Gibbs was fast-tracked into the side to face England after a finger
injury; his (unavailing) 161 and 98 at Johannesburg in January 2005 put
him right back among the best openers in world cricket. The fairground ride
2004: 7 Tests: 751 runs @ 57.76.
18 ODI: 398 runs @ 23.41.
Adam Gilchrist (Australia) - Gilchrist has always been the last player you should judge by statistics, and
this year was no exception. In Test cricket in particular, he was an intoxicating
mix of the binary and the breathtaking; as usual, his successes kept making
the difference. His gun-slinging 144
in Kandy, to end a horrendous trot
of 14 runs in five innings, turned the
Second Test against Sri Lanka, and
he set the tone for triumphs over
India and New Zealand with
centuries in the first innings of
the series. Gilchrist, the reluctant
captain, covered capably for Ricky
Ponting in Australia's series victory
in India, and his gladiatorial
exclamation upon victory at Nagpur
was a defining image of the year.
Gilchrist also made 66 Test dismissals
- the next-best was 34 - and he remained the only man in world
cricket who could score a 103-ball century, as he did in Bangalore, and
prompt adjectives like "restrained". He was anything but when he blasted
172 against Zimbabwe, his highest one-day score, at Hobart, and nobody
with 500 Test or one-day runs matched his strike-rate. Gilchrist may have
been approaching his cricketing dotage, but he remained one of the true
wonders of the cricket world.
2004: 14 Tests: 837 runs @ 38.04; 58 catches, 8 stumpings.
21 ODI: 879 runs @ 43.95. 31 catches, 2 stumpings.
Jason Gillespie (Australia) - Gillespie could no longer be labelled the world's most underrated bowler,
mainly because it was now impossible not to give him the credit he deserved.
He finally convinced everyone that he was more than Glenn McGrath's foil
with a heroic performance in India, where his 20 wickets came at the farfrom-
subcontinental average of 16 and included a series-winning haul of nine
for 80 at Nagpur. There, as everywhere else, a tight line combined with imaginative
use of slower balls and leg-cutters proved enough. As Gillespie's mullet
grew, so too did his prowess with the bat. An unbeaten half-century against
New Zealand at Brisbane, his first in Tests, was followed by another against
Pakistan at Melbourne. If Australia's work ethic was reflected in anything, it
was in Gillespie's unlikely attempt to turn himself into an all-rounder.
2004: 14 Tests: 314 runs @ 19.62; 55 wickets @ 24.89.
21 ODI: 56 runs @ 28.00; 33 wickets @ 21.84.
Harbhajan Singh (India) - Until his doosra was queried by the match referee Chris Broad, Harbhajan was well on the way to making up for the various disappointments of 2003.
Not for the first time his opposition of choice were the Australians, who
provided him with 11 wickets at Bangalore and a match-winning analysis of
five for 29 on a Mumbai minefield. There was also seven for 87 against
South Africa at Kolkata, just to prove that Harbhajan could beguile others
too. His one-day success was limited to two meaner-than-mean performances
against England. And he was left with a serious problem: the ICC had mooted
a limit of 15 degrees of permissible straightening for bowlers of all types;
his off-spinner's wrong 'un was believed to have been measured at 22.
2004: 7 Tests: 155 runs @ 17.22; 38 wickets @ 25.68.
11 ODI: 62 runs @ 20.66; 13 wickets @ 32.00.
Stephen Harmison (England) - Few could have predicted that the man who pulled out of the Bangladesh
tour in October 2003 amid snipes about a lack of fitness and commitment
would rise to the top of the world rankings in 2004. Statistically speaking,
it all began on a warm March morning at Sabina Park, when Harmison
blew away West Indies for 47 with the astonishing figures of seven for 12.
But the groundwork had been done over the previous six months in his
training sessions at Newcastle United, which opened his eyes and the
floodgates: he took 23 wickets at 14.86 in the Caribbean to provoke
comparisons with Curtly Ambrose, 21 at 22.09 against New Zealand, and
17 at 29.52 in the return series with West Indies. His below-par performances
in South Africa cost him his place at the top of the rankings, but England
still hoped they had a tall, hostile, opening bowler capable of making the
world's best batsmen duck and dive for a while to come. Harmison's 67
Test wickets beat Ian Botham's England calendar-year record of 66, set in
1978. And there was a one-day hat-trick, against India at Trent Bridge, to
celebrate too. His star was so rapidly in the ascendant that he even felt able
to withdraw from the one-day series in Zimbabwe on moral grounds. This
time, no one questioned his commitment.
2004: 13 Tests: 116 runs @ 12.88; 67 wickets @ 23.92.
17 ODI: 24 runs @ 12.00; 26 wickets @ 25.57.
Matthew Hayden (Australia) - By most batsmen's standards, Hayden enjoyed a productive year. By his
own, it was no more than adequate. Unusually for a player who prides
himself on big hundreds, Hayden failed to make the most of his starts: on
12 occasions he reached double figures without going on to pass 50. The
high point was a pair of hundreds against Sri Lanka at Cairns, but Hayden's
only other three-figure score in Tests was an innings of 130 at Galle. His
opening double act with Justin Langer dropped to the merely world-class
from out-of-this-world. The two added 255 against Sri Lanka at Cairns and
shared three other century stands, but an average partnership of 54 in 27
innings was less than they had come to expect. Even so, Hayden remained
the opener bowlers feared most.
2004: 14 Tests: 1,123 runs @ 43.19.
23 ODI: 946 runs @ 41.13.
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pakistan) - Like many Pakistan captains before him, Inzamam discovered that leadership
is not all it is cracked up to be. He continued to rack up the hundreds -
two in each form of the game - with ursine power but, by the time he was
making one and nought at Perth in December, the knives were being
sharpened. His partnership with the new coach, Bob Woolmer, looked
convincing until Inzamam chose to bat first on a dank September morning
in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy against West Indies, and the
Australia tour was an unmitigated shambles - the "hardest" he had ever
been on, admitted Inzamam. Bouncers and yorkers were one thing, and
Inzamam dealt with those as well as ever. Calls for his resignation from
former team-mates, a 3-0 whitewash, and claims that one of his players
had raped a woman in Melbourne were quite another.
2004: 6 Tests: 372 runs @ 37.20.
26 ODI: 911 runs @ 43.38.
Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka) - After years of relatively quiet performances, Jayasuriya returned to blow
bowlers off course. It was his most
productive 12 months in Tests since
the annus mirabilis of 1997, and his
runs came at a strike rate of over 70.
There were the usual spurts of low
scores that bedevil the touch player
but, when his eye was in, he was
seeing it like a football once again.
Two innings stood out: a terrifying
131 that gave Australia quite a fright
in Kandy, and a remarkable 253
against Pakistan at Faisalabad, when
Jayasuriya added 101 for the ninth
wicket with Dilhara Fernando - who
contributed one. His gentle left-arm
spin had a second wind, too: in the
absence of Muralitharan, Jayasuriya
shredded South Africa's top order in
a series-winning burst at Colombo.
2004: 11 Tests: 1,130 runs @ 56.50; 15 wickets @ 25.53.
25 ODI: 724 runs @ 31.47; 16 wickets @ 40.25.
Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) - Few players have done so well for so long while attracting as little attention
as Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's strokeplaying heir to Aravinda de Silva in the
middle order. The pièce de résistance was a near-epic 237 out of a total of
486 in the draw against South Africa at Galle, but just as important was an
innings of 82 to set up victory in that series in Colombo. But if Jayawardene
enchanted with the ruthless wristiness of his strokeplay, he also infuriated:
in 20 Test innings, he was dismissed between 13 and 44 on 11 occasions.
His one-day form was below par, although perhaps his most crucial
contribution of the year came in the field. Jayawardene dropped Andrew
Flintoff in the slips on one in the Champions Trophy: Flintoff went on to
make a match-winning century.
2004: 11 Tests: 861 runs @ 45.31.
28 ODI: 676 runs @ 32.19; no wicket for 16.
Jacques Kallis (South Africa) - It was the year in which Kallis supplanted Rahul Dravid as world cricket's
most immovable object. Throughout he was ensconced in a patch that was
the deepest purple; it began with back-to-back 130 not outs against West
Indies, and ended with the innings
of his life, a regal 162 against
England at Durban. In between there
was another big hundred in New
Zealand, and a masterclass against
India at Kolkata. So immaculate was
his technique and so cold his blood
that, once he got in, bowlers could
usually forget it. The numbers were
irresistible, but there remained
something curiously loveless about
Kallis's orgy of runs, and the
whispers that he batted for his average became increasingly voluble. His
one-day form was no less impressive, but Kallis was swimming against the
tide in a modest team: South Africa won just two of his 11 Tests and five
of his 18 one-day internationals. Inevitably, something had to give. It wasn't
his slip catching, which retained its bucket-handed brilliance, but his bowling:
Kallis's strike-rate in Tests was exactly 100. A reluctant bowler at the best
of times, he seemed now to be performing under duress. Opponents charged
with the task of winkling him out knew how he felt.
2004: 11 Tests: 1,288 runs @ 80.50; 12 wickets @ 48.41.
18 ODI: 770 runs @ 59.23; 11 wickets @ 39.63.
Michael Kasprowicz (Australia) - There was a time when the Australian attack of Glenn McGrath, Jason
Gillespie, Shane Warne and Brett Lee appeared to operate above a glass
ceiling. But in 2004 Kasprowicz broke through in spectacular fashion,
relegating Lee to the ranks of drinks bearer and stamping his own
understated, roundish-arm style on the role of third seamer. At times, he
could be truly destructive. At Darwin, he demolished Sri Lanka with seven
for 39; at Perth, he cut through Pakistan with five for 30. And his one-day
form was little short of astonishing. The days when Kasprowicz would be
summoned to do the donkey-work on a gruelling tour of the subcontinent
were gone. At 32, he was more like a seasoned thoroughbred.
2004: 13 Tests: 107 runs @ 6.29; 47 wickets @ 23.74.
12 ODI: 11 runs @ 11.00; 26 wickets @ 14.46.
Anil Kumble (India) - If there were doubters before, there could be none now: this was the year Kumble cemented his place in the ranks of the all-time greats. No one
claimed more than his 74 Test wickets, and no one could claim he had not
earned them. His bunnies included the cream of Australia's batting: he
dismissed both Simon Katich and Damien Martyn five times, Adam Gilchrist
four, and Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden three each. In all, Kumble's
hurry-up assortment of top-spinners, googlies and the occasional leg-break
accounted for 43 different Test batsmen. But three matches stood out: a 12-
wicket haul in Steve Waugh's farewell game at Sydney, a further 13 in the
truncated epic at Chennai, and the Dhaka Test against Bangladesh, when
Kumble passed Kapil Dev's Indian record of 434 wickets. Tall, economical
and ultra-competitive, he remained a captain's dream, even in his mid-30s.
2004: 12 Tests: 142 runs @ 12.90; 74 wickets @ 24.83.
13 ODI: 26 runs @ 8.66; 8 wickets @ 68.87.
Justin Langer (Australia) - It was the year in which the quiet achiever emerged from the hulking shadow
of his opening partner Matthew Hayden - and everyone else, for that matter.
Nobody scored more than Langer's 1,481 Test runs, and four of his five
hundreds exceeded 160. There were fallow periods, most notably on the
subcontinent, but at home he was irresistible, averaging 77 from seven Tests.
That included the defining performance of his year, and probably his career:
a fire-with-fire 191 in the First Test against Pakistan at Perth, when Australia
were being charred like shrimps on the barby at 78 for five. The perception
remained of Langer as the ugly sister of Australia's dazzling top seven,
but his strike-rate of 54 for the year put him above some of cricket's
great entertainers. More heads were being turned by the day.
2004: 14 Tests: 1,481 runs @ 54.85.
Brian Lara (West Indies
One moment made it all worthwhile. Six months after losing his Test record
to Matthew Hayden, Lara wrenched it back with an extraordinary innings
of 400 not out - against England, in Antigua, in a dead rubber, just like his
first record. If it was a wonderful reaffirmation of a talent from a different
plane, it also papered over the cracks of a difficult year. Lara had spent
much of that England series in Steve Harmison's pocket; in six live Tests
against England, Lara made one fifty, and looked as if he had an allergy to
chin music. His one-day form, too, was inexplicably modest - his highest
score was 59 - and there was much criticism of his captaincy as West Indies
lurched from one knockout blow to the next. Rumours of his imminent
sacking proved exaggerated, though: Lara passed 10,000 Test runs in the
final Test in England, and then his troops grabbed a romantic victory in the
Champions Trophy. A Caribbean cricket revival? At 35, Lara would not be
around to see it through; but the events of Antigua and The Oval at last
gave long-suffering West Indian supporters something to keep them going.
2004: 12 Tests: 1,178 runs @ 58.90.
20 ODI: 484 runs @ 32.26.
VVS Laxman (India) - It was a year in which Laxman's pristine talent was soiled by the grubby
limitations of mortality, and he had no answers. He began the year with an
exquisite 178 at Sydney - an innings of such purity that, unthinkably, it
outshone a Sachin Tendulkar double-century - but there was no mistaking
the struggles that would follow. He continued his blistering Australian form
with three hundreds in the VB Series, but then the house fell down around
him. A match-winning century in the final one-day international in Pakistan
was a reminder of Laxman's otherworldly ability, but there were just two
fifties in his remaining 11 Tests, and he had a torrid time in the return series
against Australia, against a vengeful Shane Warne. Anyone who had seen
Laxman make batting look the easiest thing in the world had no idea what
was going on. You suspected he felt the same way.
2004: 12 Tests: 513 runs @ 32.06.
25 ODI: 837 runs @ 41.85.
Glenn McGrath (Australia) - Just when startled batsmen thought it was safe to enter the corridor once again, McGrath came back. The man who had spent his career cackling
gleefully at the technical inadequacies of international batsmen spent 2004
having the last laugh on the critics who thought he was finished after his
ankle injury. He blew away the cobwebs with a five-for on his return against
Sri Lanka and then got down to the serious business of conquering India.
A peach of an off-cutter to Rahul Dravid - perhaps the ball of the year -
set the tone in the First Test in Bangalore, and throughout, McGrath produced
his usual challenging mix of line, length and lip. He scaled two new peaks:
a career-best eight for 24 against Pakistan at Perth and, most joyously and
improbably of all, a carefree maiden Test fifty against New Zealand in
Brisbane. Almost all his ambitions had been satisfied, but he showed no
signs of letting up.
2004: 10 Tests: 97 runs @ 13.85; 47 wickets @ 18.46.
9 ODI: no runs (not dismissed); 6 wickets @ 37.33.
Damien Martyn (Australia) - It was hard to stand out in a team like Australia, but in 2004 Martyn managed
it. Only Justin Langer scored more Test runs than Martyn's 1,353, a sequence
that restored his career average to virtually 50, where it had not been since
October 2002. Six Test hundreds - all six against subcontinental sides, five
in winning causes and four on the subcontinent itself - told the tale of a
man in the form of his life, and it would have been eight but for a pair of
97s. Martyn had never looked more at ease in the privileged but pressured
No. 4 position. His one-day form was less glittering but, as he reached his
33rd birthday, he was cashing in just when the whispers might have started.
2004: 14 Tests: 1,353 runs @ 56.37; no wicket for 27.
26 ODI: 611 runs @ 32.15.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) - He took 47 wickets in six Tests, and at various stages was the greatest
wicket-taker in Test history. Yet 2004 was, in many ways, a year to forget
for Muralitharan. As usual, there was one main reason. The chucking
allegations that have followed every step of his career again threatened to
overwhelm it when the ICC outlawed his doosra, only to change the rules
and permit it later in the year. But there was more to it than that: a shoulder
injury kept him out for five months; he was called cowardly for deciding
not to tour Australia, where his long list of enemies extended to the prime
minister; and, earlier in the year, he lost his long-awaited wrist-off with
Shane Warne in March - despite taking 28 wickets in three Tests. Australia
got after him, and Murali did not always know what to do. His economy
rate - 2.87 - was his least stingy since 1992. That does not mean anyone
wanted to face him. And his selfless, energetic response to the Sri Lankan
tsunami enhanced his reputation as a human being.
2004: 6 Tests: 83 runs @ 11.85; 47 wickets @ 22.02.
13 ODI: 11 runs @ 5.50; 23 wickets @ 19.82.
Jacon Oram (New Zealand) - It was hard not to notice Oram in 2004, and not simply because of his 6ft
5in frame. In the space of a year, he
had become a serious international
all-rounder, despite a modest Test
return with the ball. He began the
year with scores of 119 not out and
90 against South Africa, faded
slightly in England, then fought back
with a vivacious unbeaten century
against Australia in his first innings
of the series at Brisbane. Oram's
left-handed hitting - and he could
hit the ball almost as powerfully as
Andrew Flintoff - made him New
Zealand's natural heir to Chris
Cairns, while his rapid ascent provoked talk that he might one day succeed
Stephen Fleming as captain. A consistent year with the white ball suggested
good control; now he just needed to add penetration.
2004: 10 Tests: 690 runs @ 57.50; 13 wickets @ 57.76.
21 ODI: 221 runs @ 20.09; 32 wickets @ 24.09.
Shaun Pollock (South Africa) - Second only to Glenn McGrath, Pollock was turning, at 31, into the doyen
of the seam-bowling fraternity, dispensing line, length and maidens - 129
out of 470 Test overs - with the affable certainty of an old don. If the
wickets were a little more expensive in 2004, it was possibly because he
did not make the batsmen play as much as usual, although six Test hauls
of four in an innings suggested this was merely relative. His batting, though,
fell away badly, with seven of his 16 Test innings in single figures - a
significant factor in South Africa's decline. In the one-dayers he was steady
rather than penetrative. But in both forms of the game he was still the South
African bowler opposition batsmen looked to see off before tucking into the
less parsimonious fare behind him.
2004: 11 Tests: 251 runs @ 17.92; 43 wickets @ 29.62.
18 ODI: 278 runs @ 39.71; 18 wickets @ 32.44.
Ricky Ponting (Australia) - After the feast came the famine. Having scored 11 centuries for Australia in 2003, Ponting failed to reach three figures in 2004. He insisted it had
nothing to do with him succeeding Steve Waugh as Test captain, but the
statistics suggested otherwise: 11 of his 19 Test innings were between ten
and 28, which hinted at a mind that was wandering to the bigger picture.
That was hardly unreasonable: 2004 was the year in which Australia had
the chance to exorcise not one but two subcontinental demons; though it
seemed impossible, they reached another level under Ponting's captaincy.
Whereas the Waugh vintage were happy to pummel the opposition into
oblivion, leaving their jaw exposed in the process, Ponting's men chose to
box clever. Subtlety was to be embraced, not pooh-poohed. It enabled them
to win 3-0 in Sri Lanka, despite trailing on first innings every time, and to
conquer the final frontier in India. Ponting missed the business end of that
series with a fractured thumb, but in many ways the time off did him good.
He returned for the Australian summer with his batteries recharged and,
after a couple of near misses, began 2005 with that long-awaited first Test
century as captain. When he turned it into a rampaging double-hundred, it
was like 2003 all over again. Normal service had been resumed.
2004: 10 Tests: 697 runs @ 41.00.
24 ODI: 840 runs @ 38.18.
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) - It was the year in which Sangakkara, the angry young man of Sri Lankan
cricket, hinted tantalisingly at maturity. Where once a red mist undermined
his talent, now he was a beacon of consistency in both forms of the game:
only six of his 43 innings ended in single figures. But there were still vestiges
of the past: Sangakkara was twice fined for breaching the ICC's code of
conduct, and the penchant for losing his wicket to delusions of grandeur was
still there. Few could argue with an average of over 50 in both forms of the
game, however. Sangakkara mercilessly plucked 270 pieces of candy from the
Zimbabwean babies at Bulawayo, and blasted 232 against South Africa in
victory at Colombo. The only cloud was a series of unconverted starts against
Australia; but even that was partially redeemed by a stunning 101 against
them in a one-dayer in Colombo. Erudite, easy on the eye and increasingly
engaging, Sangakkara was in serious danger of becoming likeable.
2004: 11 Tests (5 as wicket-keeper): 1,114 runs @ 55.70; no wicket for 4; 15 catches as keeper, 4 stumpings.
27 ODI (25 as wicket-keeper): 1,010 runs @ 53.15; 30 catches as keeper, 12 stumpings.
Virender Sehwag (India) - When he was in full flow, there were few finer sights in world cricket in
2004 than Virender Sehwag at the crease, playing with a God-given instinct
that left most mortals in his wake. Three innings stood out: 309 against
Pakistan at Multan - India's first
Test triple-century - out of 509
while he was at the wicket; 155 out
of 233 against Australia at Chennai;
and 164 out of 294 against South
Africa at Kanpur. Not even his
glittering team-mates could hack
the pace. There were times when
Sehwag appeared to be playing in a
bubble, apparently oblivious of the
quality of the bowling or the context
of the match. That made him
enchanting and exasperating in equal measure, although no captain in his
right mind would have had it any other way. A moderate return in one-day
cricket could not detract from Sehwag's standing as the most exciting opener
in the world.
2004: 12 Tests: 1,141 runs @ 63.38; no wicket for 82.
27 ODI: 671 runs @ 25.80; 15 wickets @ 38.86.
Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan) - With Brett Lee's star falling, Shoaib established himself as the world's
undisputed No. 1 fast bowler. Not that he ever doubted the fact himself.
The scepticism came mostly from his countrymen: when Shoaib pulled up
halfway through the pivotal Third Test against India with a wrist injury and
back pain, some felt he was faking it - especially when he returned later
to freewheel a 14-ball 28 - and an investigation was launched. A bone scan
eventually cleared him, but some mud had stuck and the issue was raised
again on the Australian tour. On the pitch, Pakistan lost five of Shoaib's six
Tests. But with the suspicion remaining that his chief commitment was to
his own cause, Shoaib would have been content with three first-innings fivefors
and a strike-rate of 44. In his swaggering pomp - hair flapping, batsmen
hopping, stumps flying - he remained the most visceral experience in world
cricket. It was a shame his antics made it such a guilty pleasure.
2004: 6 Tests: 114 runs @ 10.36; 26 wickets @ 28.34.
23 ODI: 47 runs @ 6.71; 31 wickets @ 29.22.
Graeme Smith (South Africa) - After the dream-sequence beginning to his captaincy career, Smith woke up
to the harsh life of international cricket with a jolt in 2004. Reality bit
fiercest on the subcontinent, where a declining South African side lost Test
series to India and Sri Lanka. There was also a run of 11 defeats in 12 oneday
internationals, the start of an ultimately fruitless struggle with England,
and personal humiliation after some wily mind games from Stephen Fleming
in Auckland. Yet for the most part, Smith continued to crunch runs aplenty.
There was one minor epic: an unbeaten 125 to square the series in New
Zealand that was made of granite. Smith yielded to no man physically, but
he could be brought to his knees by more insidious means. By the end of
the year, as Matthew Hoggard's in-swinger had him fumbling around his
front pad time after time, even the runs had started to dry up. It was yet
another cloud on an increasingly murky horizon.
2004: 11 Tests: 921 runs @ 46.05; 3 wickets @ 62.00.
18 ODI: 652 runs @ 38.35; 3 wickets @ 47.33.
Andrew Strauss (England) - In January, Strauss was just another player England were keen to shoehorn
into their one-day team; by December, he was one of the first names on
every teamsheet. No Englishman had taken to international cricket so
comfortably since Ian Botham. Not that the comparison went much further:
Strauss's game was all about minimalism, based around three shots - cut,
pull, drive - and an indecently even temperament. Fortune came his way
with the freak injury to Michael Vaughan that gave him his debut, but from
there he made his own luck: a nerveless debut century against New Zealand
at Lord's was the prelude to a remarkable sequence of run-scoring. Records
came and went: first man to score centuries in the first innings of his first
three Test series; first man to score a century and a half-century in his first
Tests at home and overseas. Only a low exposure to high-class spin bowling
nagged against the sensation that Duncan Fletcher had unearthed a truly
world-class talent from nowhere. Strauss's one-day form was barely less
impressive. He became the heir to Graham Thorpe as England's finisher at
No. 4, and his cameo in the Champions Trophy semi-final against Australia
was nerveless. It was a microcosm of his year.
2004: 9 Tests: 971 runs @ 60.68.
21 ODI: 655 runs @ 40.93; no wicket for 3.
Heath Streak (Zimbabwe) - Streak's year was dominated by the murky politics of Zimbabwean cricket, and as such felt like an extended
sabbatical. But the truth was that, with the possible exception of Australia, he would still have made every side in the world. Before he resigned the captaincy at the start of April, Streak showcased his worldclass talents, first in the VB Series, then in the Harare Test against Bangladesh. He subsequently shone in his first match for Warwickshire with figures of 13 for 158 against Northamptonshire at Edgbaston - the best figures by a county debutant in the history of the Championship. But injury intervened and, as his dispute with the Zimbabwe board rumbled on, the worry was that international cricket would lose one of its few high-class all-rounders.
2004: 2 Tests: 68 runs @ 68.00; 5 wickets @ 12.60.
11 ODI: 317 runs @ 52.83; 22 wickets @ 19.04.
Sachin Tendulkar (India) - Having spent his career delighting the purists, Tendulkar spent 2004 whipping
the statisticians into a frenzy. In Tests, he played a remarkable three-card
trick: 495 runs without being dismissed to start the year; then seven single-
figure scores in eight innings either side of tennis elbow; finally normal
service resumed with an average of 284 in the series in Bangladesh. Apart
from a glorious, nothing-to-lose 55 against Australia on a Mumbai terrortrack,
watching Tendulkar became a colder experience: after his humbling
2003, he seemed to reject his bewitching fusion of majesty and human frailty
in favour of a mechanical, robotic accumulation. The end - an average of
91 for the year - justified the means, but the game was the poorer for it.
2004: 10 Tests: 915 runs @ 91.50; 5 wickets @ 55.20.
21 ODI: 812 runs @ 40.60; 19 wickets @ 24.26.
Graham Thorpe (England) - England's Mr Fixit was at his DIY best in 2004. No longer the thrilling
counter-attacker of old, Thorpe had become an utterly dependable, no-frills
accumulator, especially when Tests were in the balance. Each of his four
centuries almost doubled in value because of the context in which they were
made: an unbeaten 119 in Barbados, where England's next-best score was
17; an undefeated 104 at Trent Bridge to make light of a target of 284; a
brave 114 amid a lot of dross at Old Trafford; and a vital 118 not out at
Durban that first insured against defeat, then so nearly set up one of the
great comeback wins of all time. It was as though he only troubled to make
runs when the situation was worthy of his attention. If Thorpe's fielding was
beginning to fall prey to an ageing frame, his batting was the regular heartbeat
of the middle order. Others took the breath away; Thorpe merely nudged
and scampered at a steady pulse. And hardly anyone did it better.
2004: 12 Tests: 951 runs @ 73.15.
Marcus Trescothick (England) - Once again, Trescothick was England's leading run-scorer in Test cricket;
once again, his achievement came with caveats. While his home form was
still out of the top drawer - in seven Tests he hit 641 runs at 53.41 - he
was less of a menace overseas, where he made 363 runs at 33.00. Had he
not scorched a blistering 132 at Durban in his final innings of the year, the
discrepancy would have been even more marked. Yet, overall, England would
have been a much weaker side without him, and he struck up a harmonious
partnership at the top of the order with his fellow left-hander Andrew Strauss,
putting on over 150 on four occasions. He made twin centuries against West
Indies at Edgbaston to atone for a miserable Test tour of the Caribbean, and
continued to sparkle every now and then in the one-day game. A century
in gloomy conditions in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy, when Ashley
Giles's 31 was the next-highest score, should have been a match-winner.
And his slip fielding, particularly off the fast bowlers, was world-class.
Critics still noted a refusal to move his feet, but then they always have. Only
against the fastest bowlers on the fastest pitches was this truly dangerous.
2004: 13 Tests: 1,004 runs @ 43.65; no wicket for 82.
17 ODI: 670 runs @ 41.87; 2 wickets @ 36.00.
Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka) - Vaas's reward for continuing to carry Sri Lanka's seam attack with his canny
and reliable left-armers was a place in the ICC World Test and One-day XIs
at their inaugural awards evening in
September. If that raised a few
eyebrows it was only because, in
many people's eyes, Sri Lankan
bowling remained synonymous with
Muttiah Muralitharan - even when
he was injured. But Vaas was as
much the team man par excellence
as he always has been, making
regular incisions with the new ball
and chipping in with useful runs
down the order. His ability to swing
it both ways meant that 45% of his
Test victims were either caught
behind or leg-before, while batsmen
in the one-day game were rarely able to take liberties when faced with an
economy rate of 3.83. It has been the story of Vaas's career.
2004: 11 Tests: 369 runs @ 30.75; 40 wickets @ 28.65.
21 ODI: 105 runs @ 11.66; 37 wickets @ 18.72.
Michael Vaughan (England) - It was a year of confounded expectations. Just as few people thought
Vaughan's captaincy could reach such ruthless heights, so nobody thought
his batting could plumb such mundane depths. It will be remembered as the
year in which he led England to a record eight consecutive wins, infusing
the side with a strangely serene kind of steeliness, but also in which his
batting lost its freedom, perhaps for ever. His three Test centuries, all against
West Indies, and two in one Test at Lord's, were workmanlike affairs, and
only two innings - 61 against New Zealand at Trent Bridge and 86 against
Australia in the Champions Trophy semi-final - engaged the hairs on the
back of the neck like the Vaughan of old. As his head fell over and he
struggled desperately for form in South Africa, while also presiding over an
outstanding victory, the comparisons with Mike Brearley gathered pace. It
was a double-edged sword.
2004: 12 Tests: 712 runs @ 35.60; 1 wicket @ 116.00.
21 ODI: 557 runs @ 30.94; 3 wickets @ 57.00.
Shane Warne (Australia) - See Leading Cricketer of the World.
2004: 12 Tests: 211 runs @ 11.72; 70 wickets @ 24.07.
Yousuf Youhana (Pakistan) - In a Pakistan batting line-up that blew hot and cold, Youhana was a warmingly
reassuring presence. It was typical of the team that his two Test centuries -
at Multan against India, and at Melbourne - were made in losing causes,
but his 72 at Lahore, also against India, helped set up a series-levelling win
and underlined his role, as he touched 30, as the team's elder statesman,
along with Inzamam-ul-Haq. But his value to the side was never more
apparent than during an innings of unobtrusive class to see off India in the
Champions Trophy at Edgbaston. And when Inzamam hurt his back in
Australia, Youhana took over as captain. Like many of his innings, that
generally went unnoticed.
2004: 7 Tests: 539 runs @ 41.46.
27 ODI: 768 runs @ 36.57; no wicket for 1.