Hoarding of Rwanda captain Eric
Hoarding of Rwanda captain Eric Dusingizimana Screengrab

Rwanda may come across to you as an alien country. In fact, at the very first instance of reading this, most of you may land on the Rwanda s Wikipedia page or try locating it on the world map. Let us save you of that effort by describing the country first. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa, located towards the central, eastern part of the continent. Bordered by non-major cricketing nations Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one might wonder whether Rwanda can have any cricketing connection. Well, the sport not only finds a place in the country, but is playing a crucial role in its integration.

The tiny nation had to go through a lot in the 90s, when the Rwandan genocide saw racially motivated mass slaughter of estimated 500,000 1,000,000 Rwandans during the 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July 1994. Since then, the country is rebuilding brick-by-brick and cricket has been instrumental in binding its people together. The sport, which is fast gaining popularity in the country, however needed a major infrastructural boost for further growth. The efforts for the same are being undertaken and at the centre of them is their cricket team s captain Eric Dusingizimana.

Meet the cricketer in the late 20s, possibly 30, whose only objective in life is to build an international cricket stadium in Rwanda. Identifying location for the same was not difficult. What was difficult though was the cost involved nearly a million pounds for the construction of the ground. The dream looked to be a distant one for Dusingizimana. But thankfully, he never gave up. A foundation (Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation or RCSF) was set up and Dusingizimana decided to give a shot to the Guinness World Record for longest individual session by batting for 51 hours in the nets, the only way he could raise the money.

With a positive frame of mind and with only one thought of breaking the record, Dusingizimana began his quest. He was allowed a five-minute break after every one hour to eat and rest a bit, after which he would continue with the session. Many well-wishers/supporters of his cause player their bit by bowling to him and former British Premier Tony Blair was one of them. The crowd figure kept increasing as he progressed towards the record with more and more people gathering at the venue and cheering for him. By the time he approached the 40th hour, he felt he could not do it anymore.

For proper blood circulation, he even did a headstand, which reenergised him and allowed him to go on. The last one hour was extremely special, with every local radio station in Rwanda doing the countdown. The last ball, bowled by Dusingizimana s wife, was received by massive cheers of the jubilant crowd who had flocked the Amahoro Stadium in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. The marathon effort not only earned Rwandan captain the World Record, but also $1 million (approximately Rwf800 million), approx 60% of which went to stadium construction while Dusingizimana personally earned the remaining $400,000. Incidentally, he broke the record of Virag More, who had achieved the same feat in 50 hrs 4 mins 51 secs, in December 2015, in cricket s biggest market India.

Watch him make the history here:

It was a moment of enormous joy for the Rwandan skipper, as he narrates with childlike innocence in the emotional video. What followed next was a visit to the Mecca of cricket, Lord s, the 10 Downing Street and Coldplay s concert at the Wembley Stadium in London, all of which were his dreams. But most satisfying thing to him was the fulfilment of his ultimate dream, as the stadium has gone under construction. He is happy that the journey, as well as the healing process for the Rwandans, has begun. And even though he still needs a little push, Dusingizimana is optimistic of realising his vision and cricket s future in his country.