It says a lot about the state of our game that women have got stuck playing far more limited-overs cricket than Tests. But at least for the sake of our endeavour here - picking our dream XI for the last 25 years - we have a rich pool to choose from. So rich that batting behemoths like Alex Blackwell and Meg Lanning don't make it to the final ODI XI. However, the format's top five run-getters - Mithali Raj, Charlotte Edwards, Belinda Clark, Karen Rolton and Stafanie Taylor - do, so watch out! Rolton and Clark's Australian team-mate Cathryn Fitzpatrick, considered the fastest bowler in the world, is also in the XI, along with the woman who broke her world-record career wickets tally last year - Jhulan Goswami.
The side reflects the dominance of Australia and England in the game - seven players, all World Cup winners, are from these two teams, although New Zealand, the only other team to win a World Cup in this 25-year period, isn't represented at all.
Six players were picked by unanimous choice, one got four votes, and two were tied. [see sidebar for jury and method]
Clark's impact on - and legacy to - the women's game was quite simply enormous. She wasn't just one of the best female batsmen of all time, she was also captain and chief executive of Women's Cricket Australia. She led an unbeaten side to the 2005 World Cup and averaged 47.49 in ODIs.
Did you know?
Clark averaged 60.57
in World Cup games, the highest among the five batsmen with 1000-plus World Cup runs.
In a career spanning 20 years, "Lottie" was women's cricket in England. From her debut as a 16-year-old through her ten-year tenure as captain, Edwards developed both as a prolific run-scorer and innovator, as well as a fiercely competitive leader. Only India's Mithali Raj has made more runs than Edwards in ODIs. The player who had to wear culottes and buy her first England blazer was influential through the game's transition from an amateur sport to a fully professional one at the highest level, fighting for women's recognition all the way.
Before a ball was bowled in the 2017 World Cup, Raj claimed one of its defining moments: a withering takedown of a journalist
who asked her who her favourite male player was. Days later she was reading Rumi on the boundary before unfurling a typical display of glorious driving in a floppy, wide brimmed hat. Whatever happens around her, the unflappable Raj has always just got on with the job of scoring runs: she is the only batsman to have scored more than 6000 runs in ODIs
. She led India to their first World Cup final in 2005, where they lost to Australia. But while their 2017 campaign also ended in a loss in the final, the impact made by Raj and her side on fans in India was enormous.
Which cricket fan doesn't love a skilful opening lefty? Rolton was that and more: combined with a technique that gave her the ability to score fluently, her natural strength made her one of the pioneers of true power-hitting in the women's game. Rolton became captain upon Belinda Clark's retirement and had immediate success, leading Australia to a series victory over India
. But perhaps her finest moment came in 2005, when her Player-of-the-Match performance
in the World Cup final was instrumental in Australia claiming the title.
Did you know?
Rolton was at her best on the biggest stage. She averaged a whopping 74.92 in World Cup matches
, the highest average of all 28 batsmen who have scored more than 500 World Cup runs.
Taylor's path was set when, at the age of ten, she embarked on her first cricket tour. Seven years later she made her international debut and, ever since, has consistently been one of the world's most accomplished allrounders: she remains the only cricketer in history to have simultaneously held the No. 1 ODI ranking in batting and bowling. A powerful striker and canny offspinner, Taylor can single-handedly turn a match. She has won more Player-of-the-Match awards
- 22 in all - than any other woman in ODIs.
It's difficult to decide which is more pleasing to the eye: Sarah Taylor's elegantly timed drives or her lightning reflexes behind the stumps. The combination has seen her recognised as arguably the best wicketkeeper-batsman the women's game has produced. Particularly impressive when standing up to the stumps, Taylor's glove work has led her to keep in senior men's cricket in England and grade cricket in Australia. Her batting figures don't always reflect her natural ability, especially as a No. 3, but she is miles ahead of any other international keeper with 3543 runs to her name. After taking a break from the game to deal with anxiety issues, Taylor made a triumphant return as a crucial part of England's 2017 World Cup-winning side.
Did you know?
Taylor has scored five ODI hundreds
and averages 41.19 as a wicketkeeper-batsman in ODIs.
There are allrounders and then there is Ellyse Perry. Surely one of the most talented pure athletes to play the game, Perry is the only woman to represent Australia at World Cups in two different sports. After juggling cricket and football for several years - Perry made her international as a 16-year-old who had never played a senior domestic match - cricket became her sole focus. The remarkably consistent line-and-length bowler has been instrumental on the biggest stage and she showed incredible fortitude to bowl Australia to victory, despite an ankle injury that left her barely able to walk, in the 2013 World Cup final
. In recent years a move up the batting order and a flawless technique have seen her become one of the game's most consistently destructive batsmen.
Did you know?
Perry's batting is only getting better. In 38 ODI innings since the start of 2014, she has averaged 79.4
, easily the best with a 500-run cut off, and scored 24 half-centuries, including a run of six consecutive 50s.
A consistent and influential presence in hugely successful New South Wales and Australia sides, both of which she has captained, Lisa "Shaker" Sthalekar combined a canny tactical brain with effective offspin and hard-hitting batting that belied her small stature. While her composed batting in the middle order could be relied upon in crunch moments, Sthalekar's bowling - paired with intelligent field placings - could crack open the toughest of oppositions.
Did you know?
Sthalekar is one of only three allrounders - along with Stafanie Taylor and Ellyse Perry - to achieve the double
of taking 100 ODI wickets and scoring 2000 runs.
Height and pace. Goswami has made the most of the first and generated plenty of the second throughout her distinguished 16-year international career. She may not be as quick as when she was named the ICC Women's Player of the year in 2007 but Goswami at her best is still one of most threatening bowlers in the game, her tall, gangly frame allowing her to bowl genuine short-pitched deliveries as well as move the ball off the seam with enviable control. She has taken more ODI wickets
than any other woman and has proved to be a capable lower-order batsman. As vice-captain under Mithali Raj, Goswami has been the bowling backbone of the India team as they have moved into the professional era.
Did you know? Goswami is the only player to take more than 200 wickets in ODIs and has sent down 8155 deliveries - 2000 more than any other bowler.
Ask anyone who has watched women's cricket for a few decades who is the quickest bowler they have ever seen and the answer is almost invariably Fitzpatrick. Speed guns were a rarity in Fitzpatrick's heyday but she was once clocked at 75mph and that pace helped her become the first woman to take 150 ODI wickets. Having a small and slight frame was no hindrance thanks to her efficient action and she was arguably the most feared bowler in the world for much of her 16-year international career, during which she was Australia's spearhead in two World Cup victories, in 1997 and 2005. A testament to her longevity and fitness is that she was nearly 38 when she took 5 for 29 in an ODI
against India, making her the oldest woman to take a five-for in one-dayers.
Neetu David made the most of her diminutive stature by offering deceptive loop and drift. The left-arm orthodox bowler sometimes struggled on flat pitches but when conditions were helpful she could be both miserly and destructive, even to the world's best batting line ups. An economy rate of 2.82 and an average of 16.34 ensured David was an important part of India's attack for 97 ODIs over a period of 13 years, which included a comeback after two years of retirement.
Did you know?
David still holds the record of best average and economy rate
among the 17 bowlers who have taken more than 100 wickets in women's ODIs.
All statistics are for the period March 1, 1993 to December 31, 2017