Mali all out for 6, but the true power of sport is not in the scorecards

Akshay Mhaskar
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Rwanda Women's Team. © Twitter

Mali scored 6 against Rwanda!

When someone hears this statement, they will think the scoreline is possible, but in another sport. In the FIFA men's rankings Mali are ranked 62 and Rwanda are at 136 and also in women's rankings Mali enjoy superior ranking of 85 against Rwanda's 140.

So, in football nobody would raise an eyebrow if the statement 'Mali scored 6 against Rwanda' holds true.

But interpreting the same statement in cricket paints a disastrous picture for Mali. In the ICC T20 rankings Rwanda are ranked 30 after having played 9 T20Is, whereas Mali were playing their first T20I match.

The statement 'Mali scored 6 against Rwanda' means Mali were bowled out for a record-low 6 in the Kwibuka Women's T20 tournament in the Rwandan capital of Kigali City.

Till beginning of 2019, Mexico held the unwanted record of the lowest score in women's cricket as they were bundled out for 18 runs by Brazil in August 2018. Ironically, Mexico broke the record of 25 runs which were set by Mozambique only a day prior.

In January 2019, when China met UAE in Thailand Women's T20 Smash at Bangkok, they were bowled out for 14 runs, chasing the target of 204. The match lasted for 30 overs as UAE played out 20 overs and China held the fort for 10 overs.

But yesterday at Gahanga International Cricket Stadium in Kigali City, as Youma Sangare of Mali won the toss and elected to bat first in their first ever T20I, they would not have dreamt of what was to happen ahead.

When their opener Mariam Samake took a single on fifth delivery of the first over, nobody would have thought that it would turn out to be the only run taken in their entire Mali inning with the bat. The other opener Ramata Cisse was out on the first ball for zero and Mali were 1-2 after first over.

On the first delivery of the second over, Samake fell for 1. Exactly six deliveries later, Oumou Sow was run out for zero and three deliveries later Aicha None too was bowled by Bimenyimana for zero as the score read 4-3 after 2.4 overs.

Maimouna Coulibaly and Nafoutouma Traore held the fort for three more overs without adding any runs from the bat to the score. Coulibaly was dismissed for zero on the fourth delivery of the fifth over by Vumiliya and on the next delivery Traore too, was caught short of her crease for zero. After 6 overs, Mali had lost 6 wickets for just 4 runs on the board.

Next three batters Aissata Sangare, Tenin Konate and the skipper Youma Sangare, all were dismissed for zero within next three overs without any score being added to the total. Mali received two extras as the last wicket fell for the total of six on the last ball of the 9th over.

It was the first time nine ducks were on the scoreboard in an international inning, as the batting scorecard read 1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0 and 5 extras.

For Rwanda, 19-year-old medium-pacer Nyirankundineza picked up three wickets without conceding a run, while medium-pacer Bimenyimana and legspinner Vumiliya picked up two wickets apiece. Bimenyimana was Rwanda's most expensive bowler, conceding two runs - from that single to Samake and a wide - in her three overs.

Nyirankundineza and Uwimbabazi opened the inning for Rwanda and Nyirankundineza finished the match on the fourth delivery by smashing a boundary.

This performance opened a debate whether matches between the likes of Mali and Rwanda, who don't have a full international status should even be considered as internationals? Many cricket enthusiasts blamed ICC's decision of awarding international status to all T20 matches being played between ICC members after 1st June 2018.

Their logic is based on the fact that such stats dilute the performances of traditional powerhouses of cricket whose efforts at highest level don't get featured in traditional 'statistical view' of cricket.

For example, Malaysian bowler Mas Elysa's figures of 6 wickets for 3 runs against China in January 2019 are at the top of the bowling ranks followed by 6 wickets for 8 runs in just 2 overs by Botswana's Botsogo Mpedi which happened in August 2018. These figures shadow a phenomenal performance back in 2007 by Amy Satterthwaite of New Zealand when she took 6 wickets for 17 runs against a strong England.

Similarly, a lowest score by a traditional regular cricket playing nation in T20 international is 30 by Bangladesh which ranks 19th in the list of lowest scores.

However, the real story is not just about the ducks and the scorecards. This performance by Mali is a prime example of how the sport unites society where many hearts can be touched by the participation and not performance.

Between April and July (100 days) in 1994 up to one million people were murdered during the Rwandan Civil War. The genocide had lasting and profound effects on Rwanda and neighbouring countries.

It is with Mali, who are currently hosting notorious convicts responsible for the genocide in its prisons, Rwandans seek solidarity as Mali became the first foreign country to provide prison cells for the convicts as a symbol of Malian support for African unity.

Each year in Rwanda, memorial ceremonies are held to pay tribute to the victims of the 1994 Genocide and a "flame of remembrance" will burn for 100 days to commemorate the bitter history.

The Kwibuka Women's T20 tournament, which is being hosted for the sixth edition is part of such events. Established in 2014, the tournament is held as a remembrance for all the sportsmen/women who lost their lives during the genocide.

Rwanda is using cricket to promote peace through the nation’s slogan of NEVER AGAIN. Kenya (who unfortunately pulled out of what would’ve been a five-team event overnight) has the strongest record in the annual tournament having won it three times (2018, 2017, 2015). Neighbouring Uganda won the inaugural edition and was also successful in 2016.

This is Mali's not just the first T20I series but it is also their first ever tour as they get to participate in the absence of previous champions Kenya. They will be pitted against Uganda, Tanzania and host Rwanda who will fight it out for the memorial trophy.

Celebrate participation, not just performance. True power of sport is not in the scorecards.

Brief Score

Mali vs Rwanda

Mali 6  all out in 9 overs (M Samake 1, J Nyirankundineza 3-0, M Vumiliya 2-0, MD Bimenyimana 2-2)

Rwanda 8-0 in 0.4 overs (J Nyirankundineza 5*, A Uwimbabazi 2*)

Rwanda won by 10 wickets