Mary Maina Breaking New Ground in Cricket Commentary

Former Rwanda women’s cricketer turned commentator, Mary Maina, is pushing the boundary as she aims to become a well-known voice on the global stage. Photo: Supplied

Former Rwandan women’s cricketer-turned-commentator, Mary Maina, is pushing the boundary as she aims to become a well-known voice on the global stage. 

In October 2021, Maina featured in the commentary box at the ICC Africa T20 Regional Qualifiers, where she reveals her confidence grew daily as she was constantly mentored by the legendary Denis Musaali, who guided her with positive feedback. 

She says the opportunity has afforded her much-needed experience as she aims to continue developing her commentating skills and hopes that her ground breaking inclusion will open doors for young women who aspire to find themselves in a similar role in future. 

Apart from commentating, Maina recently co-founded Africa Cricket Foundation, which is an NGO that aims to promote the development of women’s cricket on the continent, providing cross-cultural elite cricket experiences programmes that empower female cricketers with life skills that are necessary to enhance their overall sport careers.

Maina reveals her time as a cricket player opened her eyes to realise that the women’s side of the game has great potential to develop into a global landscape, which she hopes to play her part in making a reality. 

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Maina chats about her journey to cricket commentating and reveals challenges she has encountered along the way.


Mary, happy new year and thank you for taking time out to chat with us! Last year you were in the commentary box at the ICC Africa T20 Regional Qualifiers. What was the experience like for you? 

I had an amazing time in the commentary box during the ICC qualifiers in Rwanda! In the first game, I was a bit nervous about the thought that people from all over the world were listening to me. But gladly, I had one of the best commentary mentors – Denis Musaali who was constantly proud of my efforts and gave me feedback whenever I worked with him in commentary. 

So every day, my confidence grew stronger, continued to learn and until today, I still look for every opportunity to continue developing my commentating skills. Many thanks to the Rwanda Cricket Association and ICC Africa for providing the platform.


Where does your love for cricket come from? 

Getting involved in cricket was the best accident that ever happened to me when a national coach who had visited our high school girls team mistook me for a cricket player. 

Ever since, cricket has been a big part of my life, my work and my lifestyle. 

My love for cricket was blossomed by the environment and the community I found in the cricket fraternity in Rwanda. It was the only sport that I experienced a sense of belonging, friendship and respect even with the opponents. Everyone was eager to help get better at it so I fell in love with the experience and decided to pursue it. 

After my retirement from international games, I decided to give back and provide opportunities for the younger girls to excel at it!


Please tell us more about your journey to becoming a cricket commentator. 

During the England vs India Test Match final in 2018, I had an opportunity to join (Jonathan) Aggers (Agnew) and Phil Tufnell at the KIA Oval commentary box. 

Ever since, I developed a great interest for commentary. However, it took quite a while to be able to explore this interest because there were no opportunities to practice back home as our tournaments were not streamed/ televised at the time.

Recently when the Rwanda Cricket Association, started streaming and televising the tournaments, they opened the opportunity for interested members like me to start learning commentary – I took it and that is how it all started.

Now, I continue to leverage more local and international commentating opportunities.


What have been some of the challenges you have encountered on your journey? 

One of the biggest challenges was getting enough platforms to practice commentary which made the growth rate quite slow. However, in life, not everything is provided for you, and therefore one needs to be as creative and proactive as possible to be able to develop their skills and achieve their dream. 

So I decided to practice with different cricket matches on TV every week, and also to commentate in local, development or National matches, such as the Richards Bay Tournament hosted by South Africa Cricket Academy.


What is the standard of women’s cricket at present in Rwanda? 

Women’s cricket in Rwanda is developing at godspeed. Since my retirement in 2018, the Rwandan women’s team has made two appearances in ICC women qualifiers in 2019 and 2021, where they have performed incredibly well. 

As we speak, Rwandan women’s cricket ranks 31 globally, behind Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. 

Additionally, since 2017, we have seen the increment of cricket participation from women. The number of women’s clubs in the national leagues sums up to 9 from 4. Kudos to RCA for the continued efforts in developing of women’s cricket in Rwanda – the future is absolutely bright!


What do you think needs to be done to improve the women’s side of the game in your country? 

I believe that playing more international games is significant in providing more practice and exposure opportunities for the ladies. Fortunately, in Rwanda all local cricket tournaments have both men and women games which ensures that equal opportunities are provided to men and women’s teams, however more international exposure would be key to further enhance the women’s standards.

I am glad that the Rwanda Cricket Association is already investing much in getting the women’s team to participate in many tournaments (ICC and non-ICC) in the region such as the Kwibuka tournament hosted every year in Rwanda, tournaments in Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa among others. Additionally, more emphasis on playing other different formats (not just T20) would significantly open up more doors for cricket exposure for the ladies.


Who are the female cricket commentators that you draw inspiration from? 

Ebony Rainford-Brent from England, and Natalie Germanos from South Africa,


We are seeing more women cricketers getting opportunities to further their careers overseas in The Hundred and Women’s Big Bash League competitions. What impact do you think this will have on our African cricketers? 

Certainly, the more opportunities to advance one’s career the higher the chances of growth. These a great platforms for African cricketers to participate, learn good practices and share experiences with other cricketers from different regions.

However, I believe that learning is only as significant as ones ability to apply sustainably the acquired knowledge for the betterment of ones community and the next generation. 

My point is, the biggest impact these experiences should have on African cricketers and management, is the ability to learn and start creating our platforms and opportunities relevant to our context.


What are you aiming to achieve in your career as there are World Cup competitions coming up in the next few years? 

With regards to commentary, I aim at being one of the leading female voices from Africa on the global platform. This is not just for me, it is also for other young African girls out there who have dreams of doing commentary in the world of sport. 

I aim to also create opportunities for them (African girls) to explore their talents in commentary.


Apart from cricket commentating, what else are you involved in? 

I am a public health professional specialising in using sports programming/ interventions to address different health (adolescent sexual health, mental health, HIV/AIDS among others) and developmental issues like leadership and women/youth empowerment. 

I recently co-founded an NGO called Africa Cricket Foundation. It aims at promoting the development of women’s cricket in Africa providing cross-cultural elite cricket experiences programmes that empower female cricketers in Africa with life skills that are necessary to enhance their overall sports careers.

My experience as a female cricket player in Africa opened my eyes to see that women’s cricket in Africa has a great potential to develop into a global landscape. 

However, one of the major gaps I identified was the lack of synergised strategic efforts for the development of women’s cricket in Africa. Another gap is the lack of emphasis in equipping cricket players with other essential soft skills such as mental wellness, personal leadership (self-belief, self-awareness, self-management) and other interpersonal essential to enhance their performance excellence. 

Therefore we started the foundation to bridge this gap. Currently, some of our programmes (women’s multinational tournaments and SRHR/leadership/Mental wellness masterclasses) are running in South Africa and Rwanda in partnership with Kookaburra, South Africa Cricket Academy, Multichoice (DSTV) – other ICC member countries are in the pipeline.


What advice would you share with young girls who are aiming to get involved in cricket commentary? 

Dreams without actions are as good as a fantasy. Therefore, my advice would be to start now and go for it without self-doubt. More importantly, maintain consistency at it, strive for excellence and support other women and girls with similar dreams.


Photo 1 Caption: Former Rwanda women’s cricketer turned commentator, Mary Maina, is pushing the boundary as she aims to become a well-known voice on the global stage. Photo: Supplied


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