At a time when a Men’s World Cup and an England Women’s international series against the West Indies are going on, the talk of Twitter in the last 24 hours has been… a T20 International between Rwanda and Mali Women.
Mali were bowled out for 6, including 8 ducks with a top score of 1; and Rwanda then knocked-off the total in 4 balls. (Full scorecard here!)
This led many to question the ICC’s relatively new policy of counting all T20s as full internationals, where previously this would have been an “Other T20” in the record books, with even some of those who are most supportive of associate cricket confessing to doubts about the new system.
Rick Eyre for example commented that he had “mixed feelings about seeing this game classified as a full international“; while cricket statistician Ric Finlay said: “I call on the ICC to reverse its decision… I am happy to record Mali v Rwanda, but I’m not comfortable having it sit alongside Australia v England.”
Others responded defending the more inclusive international designations. Ian Myers echoed a common theme, pointing out “Nobody asks how many international goals Gary Lineker scored but excluding San Marino, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg.”
However, that’s not quite what is going on here – it is actually more akin to San Marino thrashing Lichtenstein 30-0 every week… and then having their number 10 rock up to receive the FIFA Golden Boot ahead of Vivianne Miedema.
The statistics are quite literally being debased. Eight of the top ten women T20 bowlers (by wickets taken) in the past year are from associate countries, who have only played against other associate countries, and who wouldn’t get into a park team in England or Australia. (Unsurprisingly, given the low scores in many of these matches, the batting numbers aren’t affected to the same degree – with just one associate player in the top ten by runs.)
And this is only happening in the women’s game, which is being turned into a laughing stock as a result – undermining the achievements of those players who really are “top ten”. At a time when the women’s game is still to a certain extent having to widely justify its legitimacy, it just feels massively unhelpful.
Admittedly, the genie is out of the bottle now, and whether it can be put back is a difficult question… but it is one which needs to be asked nonetheless.