1. Johnson Charles (West Indies)
Close, but no: Kieran Powell (West Indies)
Chris Gayle's lack of form against Australia and absence against Zimbabwe left a gaping hole at the top of the knock, into which Charles stepped into with telling results. 100 in Melbourne officially announced his arrival, after which 130 at St George's confirmed his stay.
2. Shane Watson (Australia)
Close, but no: Ramnaresh Sarwan (West Indies)
Criticism of his selection as a specialist batsman lined Watson's return from his latest injury, this calf strain also largely due to bowling. The hard-hitting right-hander, answered his doubters and repaid the selectors' faith, cranking a quick ton in Canberra and fine half-century in Sydney. A solid showing for Australia A against India also promised more from the (non-bowling, for now) all-rounder.
3. Hashim Amla (South Africa)
Close, but no: Jonathan Trott (England)
Freed from the vice-captaincy and characteristically modest about his number one Test ranking, Amla welcomed three superb half-centuries against Pakistan - but will be the first to admit at least one of them should have been converted to three figures. Amid an average series for Alviro Petersen, Graeme Smith, Faf du Plessis and Jacques Kallis, though, Amla's knock proved all the more important.
4. AB de Villiers (South Africa, wicketkeeper)
Close, but no: Darren Bravo (West Indies)
A record-breaking 11 catches and unbeaten century in Johannesburg surely, once and for all, assured critics of de Villiers' status as the country's preferred Test wicketkeeper-batsman. What was once a begrudging dual role has now become a welcome job for an arguably overburdened man who was wise to throw in the T20I captaincy recently. Player of the Series, beating Steyn to the accolade, and rightly so.
5. Joe Root (England)
Close, but no: Asad Shafiq (Pakistan)
England accrued a respectable three-two ODI series defeat in India and emerged expected winners against New Zealand. While Ashley Giles has slipped seamlessly into his role as limited-overs coach, his appointment has also brought the emergence of Root. A real gem in the middle-order, cheeky in shot selection rather than a downright big-hitter, the diminutive right-hander already averages in excess of 80 after a mere eight ODIs. He, too, holds the world record for seven consecutive scores of 25-plus in his first seven innings. A Test berth beckons.
6. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India, captain)
Close, but no: Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
It's not often, if ever, a player gains selection in this hypothetical XI for a one-off performance, but there was just no ignoring Dhoni after his Herculean effort in Chennai. True, Australia's spin options lacked penetration akin to that of Ravichandran Ashwin and company, but Dhoni's double-century on a rank Chepauk turner will go unrivalled for a long time. For his epic vigil and the win, Dhoni amassed the highest Test score by a wicketkeeper-batsman against Australia, the highest score by an Indian captain, and drew level with Sourav Ganguly as the country's most successful skipper.
7. Moises Henriques (Australia)
Close, but no: Dwayne Bravo (West Indies)
Australia were particularly average in the series opener, and all-rounder Henriques' selection ahead of spinning counterpart Glenn Maxwell continues to raise questions after an inadequate performance with the ball from the seamer. His showing with the bat, though, insisted he is more the genuine article than many other pretenders - Usman Khawaja, etc.
8. Vernon Philander (South Africa)
Close, but no: Mitchell Starc (Australia)
South Africa were truly tested only once in three matches, and ever the man for the big occasion, Philander promptly stepped up to orchestrate a fat Pakistani collapse on the fourth morning of the Cape Town Test. Like fellow all-rounder Robin Peterson, he too answered doubters about his prowess with the bat in Centurion.
9. Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
Close, but no: Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan)
Australia had no answer to Ashwin's flight, guile and deception in Chennai, where he was introduced as early as the sixth over on day one. Dhoni's ongoing call for pitches riddled with turn and bounce certainly helps Ashwin, who has proved otherwise fallible away from the sub-continent, but at home - and against an Australian order supposedly primed to defy the spinners - he is untouchable for the foreseeable future.
10. Dale Steyn (South Africa)
Close, but no: Stuart Broad (England)
The series against Pakistan was pretty much business as usual for the Proteas pace ace. Unbelievably prolific in the series opener, Steyn set a precedent that never relented - and an average of almost seven wickets per match soon took him past former fast bowler and current bowling coach Allan Donald's tally of 330 Test wickets. Next stop, eventually: Makhaya Ntini's 390.
11. Clint McKay (Australia)
Close, but no: Steven Finn (England)
Australia were, as expected, entirely professional in their five-nil deconstruction of the West Indies - and at the fore of their bowling charge was their right-arm workhorse. Nine wickets in five matches typified his consistency, which too often flies under the radar among other bigger names. Due reward arrived, though, when the country's powers-that-be rightly named him 2012-2013's ODI Cricketer of the Year.