As the Women’s World Cup gets underway in England, the world’s best cricketers are about to show just how far the game has come in recent years. But how do today’s greats compare to their predecessors? Here is our list of the 10 greatest women cricketers of all time. We’ve managed to select a combination of cricketers from the early days of women’s cricket to those at the forefront today, while also considering the impact these players had off the field as well. That made it a difficult list to compile when you consider that Jhulan Goswami, Claire Taylor, and Lindsay Reeler – not to mention Meg Lanning, Suzie Bates, and Ellyse Perry all missed out.
10. Cathryn Fitzpatrick (Australia, 1991-2007)
No Australian has taken more international wickets than Cathryn Fitzpatrick, who is among the game’s greatest ever quick bowlers – as well as one of the fastest. In fact, only one other player – Jhulan Goswami – has taken more in total. She took 60 wickets in just 13 Tests and another 180 in 109 ODIs, helping Australia win the World Cup in 1997 and 2005 and reach the final in 2001. Aged 37 when she took five for 29 against India in an ODI in 2006, she became the oldest player to achieve that feat. Not only capable of taking wickets, she was incredibly hard to score off, with an economy rate of just 1.91 in Tests and 3.01 in ODIs.
9. Mithali Raj (India, 1999-)
With more than 8,000 runs – and counting – to her name, Raj has been a batting colossus for India since she marked her debut in 1999 against Ireland with a century. At the age of just 19, she broke the world record by scoring 214 against England in a Test match. She captained India to their first – and, to date, only – World Cup final in 2005 and has captained India in more matches than any other woman. Her importance to India was highlighted when they struggled during the 2000 World Cup after she fell ill. Small wonder she is nicknamed the “Tendulkar of Indian women’s cricket” thanks to her prolific accumulation of runs.
8. Myrtle Maclagan (England, 1934-1951)
Myrtle Maclagan played in the first ever women’s Test, when England played Australia in 1934 and registered the first century in the format one year later. World War Two interrupted her career and she played just 14 Tests. She still accumulated 1,007 runs at an average of 41.96 and also took 60 wickets with her off breaks. Undoubtedly the game’s first great all-rounder, she also captained England in two home Tests in 1951. She was 52 when she finally stopped playing in 1963.
7. Betty Wilson (Australia, 1948-1958)
During her playing days, Betty Wilson was widely regarded as one of the best players of all time. World War Two meant she had to wait to launch her international career but even though she played just 11 Tests, she set a number of records. A genuine all-rounder, she was the first cricketer – male or female – to score a century and take 10 wickets in a Test. That performance, taking 7-7 against Pakaistan, included the first hat-trick in women’s Test cricket. She is one of just two women – Belinda Clark is the other – to have made it into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.
6. Debbie Hockley (New Zealand, 1979-2000)
Debbie Hockley remains one of New Zealand’s greatest ever players, averaging 52.04 in Tests and 41.89 in ODIs during her career that spanned four different decades (and two millennia). She was named as the player of the match as in the 1997 World Cup final and helped the White Ferns win the title in 2000. During her time as captain, she drew all six Tests she took charge of and also led in 27 ODIs. She was the first player to reach 4,000 ODI runs, the first to play 100 ODIs, and the first to play more than 40 World Cup matches. She was also the first woman to win election as New Zealand Cricket President, which she achieved in 2016.
5. Stafanie Taylor (West Indies, 2008-)
Arguably the most powerful all-rounder in the game today, Stafanie Taylor has been at the forefront of the West Indies’ rise to prominence. She has never played a Test, which shows the direction women’s cricket has taken, but has still made almost 200 international appearances. A powerful ball striker, she currently averages over 45 in ODIs and over 35 in T20Is. In the side almost constantly since debuting aged 17, she has taken almost 200 wickets with her off breaks and is the only woman to have scored a century and taken four wickets in an ODI. She was the captain and lynchpin of the West Indies side that won the 2016 ICC Women’s World T20 and she is the only player in the game – male or female – to have been ranked at number one in both the ICC’s batting and bowling rankings at the same time.
4. Sarah Taylor (England, 2006-)
Most women in this list will have played alongside their male counterparts as they made their way through their careers, but Sarah Taylor was close to playing for Sussex’s second XI in 2013 while she did go on to make history as the first woman to play grade cricket in Australia in 2015. The best wicket-keeper the woman’s game has ever seen and a brilliant batsman, Taylor has served England well, winning the World Cup and World T20 in 2009 and was the youngest woman to reach 1,000 ODI runs. Despite a couple of breaks from the game, she has scored almost 6,000 international runs for her country and taken several blinding catches standing up to the stumps.
3. Charlotte Edwards (England, 1996-2016)
The fact that England have really struggled since Edwards retired in 2016 shows just how important she was to her side. She made her debut at the age of 15 and developed into an outstanding batsman, going on to score more runs in international cricket than any other English player. Impressively, she did most of it while leading the side. She captained England between 2005 and 2016, leading them to World Cup and ICC World T20 success in 2009 and three Ashes successes. She was the first cricketer – male or female – to pass 2,500 runs in T20Is and at one time held the highest score in an ODI, with 173. She finished her international career with a Test average of 44.10, an ODI average of 38.16 and a T20I average of 32.97 and is still playing domestic cricket.
2. Belinda Clark (Australia, 1991-2005)
When Sachin Tendulkar made 200 against South Africa in 2010, he was the first man to score a double-century in an ODI but he achieved the feat some 13 years after Clark struck 214 against Denmark in the 1997 World Cup. But Clark – like Tendulkar – was far from a one-innings wonder. Arguably Australia’s greatest player, she captained the side from 1994 until 2005, leading the side to two World Cup wins and another final. Leading on the field was one thing, but she also managed to combine that with the role of chief executive of Women’s Cricket Australia at the same time! A fine batsman, she averaged 45.96 in Tests and 47.49 in ODIs with seven international centuries and she remains Australia’s leading ODI run-scorer. Alongside Betty Wilson, she is one of just two women to have been inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.
1. Rachael Heyhoe-Flint (England, 1960-1982)
Rachael Heyhoe-Flint captained England between 1966 and 1978 and her side was never beaten in a Test series during that time. Leading the side to victory in the inaugural 1973 Women’s World Cup, which she was instrumental in getting organised, she was also the first female cricketer to hit a six in a Test match. She averaged 45.54 in Tests and 58.45 in ODIs. A real pioneer on and off the field, she led calls for the MCC to allow women to become members, and was accordingly among the first to receive the honour. Not content with that, she was one of the first female ECB directors and was later given a life peerage. A great loss to the game when she passed away earlier this year, she did perhaps more than anybody else on this list to raise the profile of women’s cricket.
Image Credit: Naparazzi